“What quantitative data do you have to back these personas up?” 

“We already know what our customers want. Our sales people are talking to them all the time.”

“Marketing has developed personas already. We can just use those.” 

(produces marketing segments and stereotypes rather than personas)

*crickets* Personas go on the shelf and are never heard from again.... 

 Heard something like this before?


If so, you’re not alone. Our clients and Cooper U students bring up these challenges (and more) all the time. Too many people are struggling to get their organizations and teams to buy-into, adopt, and use personas to make good product and service decisions.

And, that’s a shame because personas truly are an AMAZING design tool. When used correctly, they have the power to help product teams step out of their own shoes and into those of their customers - so that they can make much better decisions about what their product or service experience should be. Think about it this way: we are all naturally inclined to design for ourselves - because we know our point of view best. Companies are the worst offenders, often creating rationale for features that are great for business, but not actually in service of customer goals. The problem is, designing from a business-centric point of view undermines your company in the long run, because your customers ultimately won’t adopt products and services that weren’t really designed for them. They can sniff out insincerity.

So, why do personas get such a bad rap? 

There are lots of reasons: 

  • Poorly constructed personas in the wild that undermine the credibility of personas at large
  • Confusion about the differences between design and other types of personas (like marketing personas) 
  • Misconceptions about how personas originate 
  • Lack of clarity around how personas should be used throughout the product design process 
  • Poor communication about personas within an organization 
  • Lack of understanding of how design personas can be used over time 

Time to fix this! 

As the agency who pioneered the use of this tool, we thought it was time to nip these issues in the bud - and give people a better understanding of how to leverage personas effectively. We’re kicking off a new one-day workshop called Putting Personas to Work, which will answer the many questions that arise when using them for product/service decisions. 

As an added bonus, we’re hosting a 1-hour Q&A session during the workshop with Alan Cooper, the inventor of personas and the visionary behind Cooper’s Goal-Directed design approach.

If you’re ready to make personas work for your organization, join us and register for our first session on May 21. If you can’t make it, but want to learn more about personas anyway, here are a few other options:

Slack Chat! One of our in-house personas experts, Nikki Knox, will be hosting a Q&A and discussion about personas on the UX Designer Slack channel 5/1/15 10am PST. Join 2600+ designers at: http://designerhangout.co.

Read all about it! Check out a few articles we’ve written about making and using personas effectively: 

The origin of personas 

Reconciling market segments and personas 

8 Tips to getting your personas named more effectively 

Persona Empathy Mapping