Developing Personas

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Definition

Personas represent a composite of users with common behaviors, attitudes and motivations who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their use of information and technology to achieve a goal.

Overview

Personas offer a promising approach to incorporating user voice into the development process. They are a way for you to start seeing your user beyond their interactions with computers, servers, and mobile devices. The following provides guidelines for how to create your own personas and some examples of personas that are used in the IFT space.

Resources

Example Personas (Dharamsala)

This resource contains four example personas we created based on our work with the Tibetan Exile Community in Dharamsala. Each persona is a composite of multiple individuals and learnings.

Why

Personas give us the opportunity to walk in the shoes of users and other influential stakeholders not only as they engage with tools, but also to better understand how they live their lives. This activity will allow us to better understand their communication, security and privacy needs by collecting and summarizing a group of people’s thinking in one place. The act of creating and using personas is another way for us to build empathy and understanding of another person’s point of view; thus improving the design and refinement process.

Creating a persona can be helpful once you have completed your research phases and want to understand the key insights, motivations and needs of groups of people. In addition to helping with analysis, once personas are created, they can be used to help with the continued design and development process, because they are a litmus and ground you in what is actually happening to your users on the ground. Personas distill the things you’ve heard and learned and help you answer the question “Now, what do I design for someone like you and others that are similar?”

How

Personas are typically 1-2 pages and include at least 1 representational image of the person and “facts” about that person. Think about it like a baseball card or a brief character summary. You won’t need to put every detail about all of the similar people you’ve spoken with, but you will need to highlight and summarize the most important information about this group that will help in your design and understanding of that population. Remember that this “person” can be composite of multiple people with the same ideas and needs, and any personal information can be anonymized or removed.

As part of this, you will need to identify the most important “facts” or categories that help you understand who this population or group of people is. Here are some you can begin with that are relevant to the IFT space that were used in SecondMuse’s Dharamsala research. As always with the Internet Freedom Needfinding framework, these are just starting points and you can further develop them and shape them depending on your research questions, needs and focus:

Examples From The Field:

Categories from Personas

Examples & Additional Resources

Personas can be presented in many ways. A number of example personas created based on the time SecondMuse spent with the Tibetan Exile Community can be found in Understanding Internet Freedom: The Tibetan Exile Community.