The Essential Persona Lifecycle: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas

Overview

Personas play an essential role in the development of successful products. Without creating profiles of target customers and studying them throughout your product development lifecycle, it’s impossible to truly understand user need, context, and pain points. The Essential Persona Lifecycle is an easy-to-reference guide on persona creation, use, and evaluation. Whether you are a student or a UX practitioner, if you are developing products that people are intended to use, this ...

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The Essential Persona Lifecycle: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas

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Overview

Personas play an essential role in the development of successful products. Without creating profiles of target customers and studying them throughout your product development lifecycle, it’s impossible to truly understand user need, context, and pain points. The Essential Persona Lifecycle is an easy-to-reference guide on persona creation, use, and evaluation. Whether you are a student or a UX practitioner, if you are developing products that people are intended to use, this book is for you.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Many people think they know how to create personas-but they don’t. Hearsay knowledge gathered from surface browsing of a few websites and press releases is a scary and risky background for building a tool on which your user experience is supposed to rest. Better (and safer for your project) to learn from people like Adlin and Pruitt who actually know what they’re talking about. As this book shows, personas are not that hard, but there’s still more to them than what you can pick up from a blog posting. Read The Essential Persona Lifecycle or suffer." — Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780123814180
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 5/25/2010
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 478,510
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Tamara Adlin is the Principal consultant at Adlin, Inc. She was formerly a Customer Experience Manager at Amazon.com. For the past six years, John and Tamara have been researching and using personas, leading workshops, and teaching courses at professional conferences and universities. They developed the Persona Lifecycle model to communicate the value and practical application of personas to product design and development professionals.

John Pruitt is a User Research Manager for the Tablet and Mobile PC Division at Microsoft Corporation. Since joining Microsoft in 1998, he has conducted user research for a number of products including Windows 98SE, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP, and MSN Explorer, versions 6, 7 & 8. Prior to Microsoft, he was an invited researcher in the Human Information Processing Division of the Advanced Telecommunications Research Laboratory, in Kyoto, Japan, and also worked as a civilian scientist doing simulation and training research for the U.S. Navy.

John holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of South Florida and has published articles and chapters on usability methods, skill training, naturalistic decision-making, speech perception and second-language learning. He has been creating and using personas for more than five years, continually developing a more rigorous approach to the method and mentoring numerous product teams at Microsoft and companies worldwide in adopting the technique. John has led workshops and spoken widely on the topic at both academic and industry events.

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Read an Excerpt

The Essential Persona Lifecycle

Your Guide to Building and Using Personas
By Tamara Adlin John Pruitt

Morgan Kaufmann

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-12-381419-7


Chapter One

What are personas?

CHAPTER OUTLINE

Introduction 1

Why a Persona Lifecycle? 1 The Five Phases of the Persona Lifecycle 2

Why Another Persona Lifecycle Book? 4

What Additional Materials Will I Find in the Original Persona

Lifecycle Book? 4

INTRODUCTION

Personas are fictitious, specific, concrete representations of target users. The notion of personas was created by Alan Cooper and popularized in his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (Sams Publishing, 1999). Personas put a face on the user—a memorable, engaging, and actionable image that serves as a design target. They convey information about users to your product team in ways that other artifacts cannot.

Personas have many benefits:

• Personas make assumptions and knowledge about users explicit, creating a common language with which to talk about users meaningfully.

• Personas allow you to focus on and design for a small set of specific users (who are not necessarily like you), helping you make better decisions.

• Personas engender interest and empathy toward users, engaging your team in a way that other representations of user data cannot.

In other words, personas will help you, your team, and your organization become more user focused.

WHY A PERSONA LIFECYCLE?

We originally wrote The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design because lots of people were excited about personas, but:

• No one had described, in practical terms, how to create personas.

• No one had described specific tools for using personas during a product development process.

• Practitioners who had tried personas had failed in their efforts more often than they had succeeded.

We looked into why so many persona efforts were failing, and we found four common reasons:

1. The effort was not accepted or supported by the leadership team.

2. The personas were not credible and not associated with methodological rigor and data.

3. The personas were poorly communicated.

4. The product design and development team employing personas did not understand how to use them.

The Persona Lifecycle was a solution: an end-to-end set of methods and tools designed to support persona practitioners from the moment they decided to try personas until well after the completion of a project. The persona lifecycle is built on several core assertions, all of which arose from our research and experience:

• Building personas from assumptions is good; building personas from data is much, much better.

• Personas are not documents. They are shared ideas around who your users are that must come to life in the minds of the people in your organization.

• Personas are a highly memorable, inherently usable communication tool if they are communicated well.

• Personas can be initiated by executives or first used as part of a bottom-up grass-roots experiment, but eventually they require support at all levels of an organization.

• As long as personas are well built, data driven (or otherwise validated and agreed upon), and thoughtfully communicated, the product team can use the personas that come to exist to generate new insights and seek out the right details when they need them.

• Personas are not a stand-alone, user-centered design (UCD) process but should be integrated into existing processes and used to augment existing tools.

• Effective persona efforts require organizational introspection and strategic thinking.

• Personas can be created and show their value quickly, but if you want to obtain the full value from personas you will have to commit to a significant investment of time and resources.

We understand that the devil is in the details when it comes to launching a persona effort within an organization, and we are excited to share specific techniques that will help you succeed in your own persona efforts and in turn help your organization realize the benefits of truly UCD.

The five phases of the persona lifecycle

The persona lifecycle is a metaphoric framework that breaks the persona process into phases similar to those of human procreation and development. As shown in Figure 1.1, the five phases in this framework bring structure to the potentially complicated process of persona creation and highlight critical (yet often overlooked or ignored) aspects of persona use:

• Family planning—Before you begin any persona effort, you should figure out what problems you're trying to solve and what materials (specifically, data sources) are already available for you to use.

• Conception and gestation—Organize assumptions; turn data into information and information into personas.

• Birth and maturation—Create a persona campaign and introduce the personas to your organization.

• Adulthood—Use the personas in specific ways to help during the design, development, evaluation, and release of your product.

• Lifetime achievement and retirement—Measure the success of the persona effort and create a plan to reuse or retire the personas.

As the name indicates, the persona lifecycle is a cyclical, largely serial, process model. As Figure 1.1 shows, each stage builds on the next, culminating but not ending at the adulthood phase. Note also that the final stage, lifetime achievement and retirement, is not immediately followed by a cyclical return to the first stage. This is because different persona efforts culminate and restart in different ways. Personas can be reused, reincarnated, or retired depending on the project.

More importantly, although each phase does build on the previous, some are more important than others, and some you can complete in just an hour or two if need be. Conception and gestation and adulthood are the vital steps. As you read this book, remember that you can (and should) customize your own persona process in accordance with the amount of time, resources, and data you have.

The persona lifecycle doesn't have to take a long time. You can, and should, be selective in the techniques you choose to integrate into your persona effort. Although we do not think it is a good idea to skip any of the lifecycle phases completely, we do believe it is completely acceptable to take some shortcuts within any of the phases. Giving some attention to every phase will increase the odds that your persona effort will ultimately be successful. Your overall goal should be to create helpful and well-used personas, not to follow the process described in this book to the letter. Throughout the book, we suggest both complete end-to-end processes and helpful shortcuts. We point out the processes we believe to be the most important and effective, and you can treat each chapter as a menu of techniques and tools that can be used together or independently.

WHY ANOTHER PERSONA LIFECYCLE BOOK?

The original version of The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design is rich in details, examples, philosophy, and stories from the field. It was written to give you the full context around every aspect of persona creation, communication, and use, in addition to as many tools and tricks as we could find. The original is a reference tome that will help practitioners navigate the specific needs of their own organizations ... and get past the inevitable hurdles everyone faces during a persona effort.

This book is for people who just need to know what to do and what order to do it in. It is completely focused on practical tools and methods, without much explanation on why the particular tool or method is the right one. For that reason, we have significantly shortened the entire book, and we have further abridged the chapters that did not include critical steps in the persona creation and use process.

We have focused the content as follows:

• Family planning—Basic ideas and a few tools that will help you get organized

• Conception and gestation—Step-by-step instructions to move from assumptions to completed personas

• Birth and maturation—Strategic techniques to get the right information about your personas out to your teammates at the right time

• Adulthood—Specific tools that will ensure your personas are used by the right people at the right times (and in the right ways!) during the product development cycle

• Lifetime achievement and retirement—Basic ideas and a few tools that will help you measure the success of your persona effort ... and prepare for the next one

Again, we don't recommend that you skip any step in the persona lifecycle (even those that we cover very briefly here). In this book, we include some guidelines that will help you with every phase, no matter how much time you have. Our goal is to help you give some thought to important issues and jot down some basic information. A little upfront work will be incredibly helpful when you need to justify your project, capture lessons learned, and plan for your next persona effort.

WHAT ADDITIONAL MATERIALS WILL I FIND IN THE ORIGINAL PERSONA LIFECYCLE BOOK?

Our original book, The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design, is a lot longer than this edition, which provides a very practical—in some cases, a step-by-step—description of the basics of the persona lifecycle; the original includes much more in-depth content. Several chapters in this edition, including those on family planning and retirement and lifetime achievement, have been radically shortened; they tell you what you need to do but do not include details on how to do some of these steps. The chapter on birth and maturation is shortened, but not as drastically; it still contains some specific how-to methods and suggestions. The chapters on conception and gestation and adulthood are also still quite detailed, and they include a few important updates based on lessons we've learned since our original book was published.

Having said that, one of our most important insights into persona projects is that the devil is always in the details. If you find yourself stuck during the process, don't despair. Instead, consult the original persona lifecycle book for many more details and suggestions, including:

• A complete history of the origin of personas

• Detailed analysis of why personas work and what causes them to fail

• Many "bright ideas" to help streamline your persona efforts

• Dozens of stories from the field written by other persona practitioners that will give you first hand insights based on their experiences and ideas for new methods and tools that have worked for them

• An extensive case study based on our fictitious company, G4K, which provides examples of all the materials related to a successful persona effort

In addition, the original book includes five invited chapters written by persona experts:

• "Users, Roles, and Personas," by Larry Constantine

• "Storytelling and Narrative," by Whitney Quesenberry

• "Reality and Design Maps," by Tamara Adlin and Holly Jamesen

• "Marketing Versus Design Personas," by Bob Barlow-Busch

• "Why Personas Work: The Psychological Evidence," by Jonathan Grudin

But don't worry: we've made sure to provide you with all the basics you'll need as you embark on your persona effort right here in this book.

Chapter Two

The five phases of the persona lifecycle

CHAPTER OUTLINE

Introduction 7

The Persona Lifecycle Encourages and Supports User-Centered Design 8 Phase 1. Persona Family Planning 8 Phase 2. Persona Conception and Gestation 9 Phase 3. Persona Birth and Maturation 9 Phase 4. Persona Adulthood 10 Phase 5. Persona Lifetime Achievement, Reuse, and Retirement 10

INTRODUCTION

The persona lifecycle is a metaphoric framework that breaks the persona process into phases similar to those of human procreation and development. As shown in Figure 2.1, the five phases in this framework bring structure to the potentially complicated process of persona creation and highlight critical (yet often overlooked or ignored) aspects of persona use:

• Family planning—Before you begin any persona effort, you should figure out what problems you're trying to solve and what materials (specifically, data sources) are already available for you to use.

• Conception and gestation—Organize assumptions; turn data into information and information into personas.

• Birth and maturation—Create a persona campaign and introduce the personas to your organization.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Essential Persona Lifecycle by Tamara Adlin John Pruitt Copyright © 2010 by Elsevier Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Morgan Kaufmann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Persona Lifecycle

Phase 1: Planning a Persona Effort

Phase 2: Creating Personas

Phase 3: Launching and Communicating Personas

Phase 4: Using Personas

Phase 5: ROI and Reuse of Personas

Conclusion

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