Personas : yay or nay?



Hey all,
I was just thinking about Personas.
For whatever reason, I find it really hard to feel empathy for a “made-up” document.
Whenever I thought of persona characteristics, I usually started thinking about a an actual person I spoke to.

So my question is,
Do designers ever have a real person come in, explain their problems on video and share this with stakeholders?
Isn’t that a much easier way to establish empathy?

Of course there are shortcomings since this one person doesn’t represent a vast majority of the user population.
But theres also a theory that 5 to 7 users is good enough to cover a majority of insights generated.

I wanted to know if any of you feel the same way, and hear your thoughts on this.


I imagine it would be an easier way to establish empathy, but I wonder if you’d be risking introducing biases.


@enlightened_06, since I feel this is related to design with empathy, I would love to have some conversations. However, I feel a bit confused with your topic description. Do you mind elaborate more on the situation and let us know more about the context of your problem? You talked about few thing in this topic and I do not understand the relation between them :slight_smile:


Following this


In my opinion, introducing biases has always been one of the difficulties of working with personas. They inherently create biases that are hard or impossible to overcome.


Very fair. It’s impossible to completely rule them out, but by genericising the persona wouldn’t that help to minimise?


I think genercising personas takes away from a lot of what makes them useful in the first place-- the empathy that they create by mimicking interacting with an actual person.

Personas to me will always be flawed, no matter how you use them. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be used, but that we as UX pros need to have a good understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses to be able to use them appropriately.


To me Personas can be useful in understanding Marketing groups, but tend to fail when it comes to solving user problems and creating a better experience.

I agree they are useful in certain contexts. My company did a lot of work to make some very well-done personas with plenty of intelligent research, but I rarely need them to truly solve real user problems.

I’m much more into the “Jobs-To-Be-Done” mindset to create user stories and empathy (one of our Researchers also called it purpose-driven design, which I like):

“I am a ( role) I want to ( activity) because I want to (purpose)”

So for me, Personas are a “Nay” when it comes to UX, but “Yay” for things like marketing and understanding your general customer segments.


Yeah, what I meant was, I find it heard to empathize with a persona because I know its not an actual person.
My question was if other UXers here also felt the same.


This is precisely what its like for me as well. I have user quotes written down, and I just remember the actual person if I spoke to them. With my UX colleagues, I ask them to show me a picture or video of the person with whom they spoke. The difference in empathy is like night and day for me.


I am relatively new to this world of Design coming in as a Program Evaluator who explores impact and effectiveness of health and social services. Initially I was a bit confused by the concept of personas and how I could use them in my work but an opportunity presented itself last year to conduct a Gaps analysis for the Domestic Violence (DV) related service system. After conducting eight Journey Mapping interviews with women victim/survivors, I used the early analysis to aggregate the data into two personas. Because DV is not generally a straightforward linear journey we were able to reflect all of the core service interactions into two fairly realistic personas (although the attending Police Officers were quick to point out a few flaws :slight_smile:) . We then used those two personas to map out the unique journeys from the organizational perspective but before doing so, we also asked all participants in groups of three to go around the room to read and discuss actual quotes from all DV JM interviews which were sorted by service provider (example Police, Court, Shelter, Faith group, Food Bank etc.). As you can see, we embraced the potential influence to help the service providers (session participants) reframe perspectives and feel the lived DV service experience from the women’s perspective—honestly, I had no idea if the process would be effective or not. The interesting thing about the persona empathy mapping process is the fact that many of the service providers were unaware of another service’s deeper process and using the additional wall quotes, really helped them to identify areas for system improvement. I believe it was most useful to the service providers who’s services are designed to meet more functional needs (Police-protection/intervention) than address the emotional needs of victims (Shelters-Counselling/Support services). The persona activity was only part of our process—we did a second engagement session three months later to recap the project and share the gaps and need report. So at the end of the day, do I think there is value in using personas? For our project—most definitely yes! If you are interested in seeing our UX DV Journey Map and data reports—please just ask! Our DV Mapping project began here with a post of inquiry and so it is so wonderful to share some of our experiences with Design. THANK YOU!