image by youX ventures via Unsplash

Personas

Last week I moderated a chat on the Clubhouse app that was titled “Personas?!?!?”. I started the chat due to a DM I had received from a friend about how some personas she had seen were reinforcing cultural bias against certain groups. I couldn’t help but ask myself, how did we get here with this design artifact?

I was a bit troubled because I had a similar experience with personas, particularly when I made some culturally diverse and showed them to a non-diverse group, namely, white males. When I showed them personas that had a picture of a person of color, the feedback differed from when I showed pictures of a white person. In particular, I noticed that the amount of criticism increased and empathy for the persona decreased, and it led me to a crossroads: “How can these be helping us with empathy if they trigger cultural bias?”

I have access to the new social media app, Clubhouse, so I started the room with the experience on my mind. I was able to get perspectives from several people in the UX industry, and many “Hot takes” on purpose and usefulness. What follows below is a few that I was able to capture:

  • A persona was supposed to be an artifact of the research note-taking. They were never meant to be a foundational design artifact. They are to be used for research note compiling.
  • They are qualitative artifacts; if you use quantitative data, they should be used to augment, not create.
  • UX researcher’s role in creation is to develop techniques and processes to perform the research, not gather all of the research and then create the personas.
  • It should only be shared out with the team that conducted the initial research. For full company share-outs, use journey maps or a jobs-to-be-done framework.

In short, we need to make sure we are careful with how we use these potent design artifacts and make sure that they are fully explained for stakeholders, especially those who are outside of the research work or not a part of your design team.

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