My Articles on Personas

Confusion and information triggered by photos in persona profiles

J Salminen, S Jung, J An, H Kwak, L Nielsen, BJ Jansen

International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 129, 1-14 (2019)

Personas-User Focused Design

L Nielsen, Springer (2019)


L Nielsen

Persona Studies 4 (2) (2018)

UX in Agile before and during development

MK Larusdottir, L Nielsen, A Bruun, LB Larsen, PA Nielsen, JS Persson

Proceedings of the 10th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 984-987 (2018)

The role of UX professionals in agile development: a case study from industry

A Bruun, MK Larusdottir, L Nielsen, PA Nielsen, JS Persson

Proceedings of the 10th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 352-363 (2018)

“Is More Better?”: Impact of Multiple Photos on Perception of Persona Profiles

J Salminen, L Nielsen, S Jung, J An, H Kwak, BJ Jansen

Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2018)

Fixation and Confusion: Investigating Eye-tracking Participants’ Exposure to Information in Personas

J Salminen, BJ Jansen, J An, SG Jung, L Nielsen, H Kwak

Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Human Information Interaction. (2018)

Who are your users?: comparing media professionals’ preconception of users to data-driven personas

L Nielsen, SG Jung, J An, J Salminen, H Kwak, BJ Jansen

Proceedings of the 29th Australian Conference on Computer-Human Interaction. (2017)

Persona generation from aggregated social media data

SG Jung, J An, H Kwak, M Ahmad, L Nielsen, BJ Jansen

Proceedings of the 2017 CHI conference extended abstracts on human factors. (2017)

Developing international personas: A new intercultural communication practice in globalized societies

I Jensen, H Hautopp, L Nielsen, S Madsen

Journal of Intercultural Communication, 43, (2017)

Socio-technical HCI for ethical value exchange: a case of service design and innovation ‘at the Margins’ in resource constrained environments

J Abdelnour-Nocera, L Nielsen, LR Christensen, T Clemmensen

Human-Computer Interaction-INTERACT 2017: Adjunct Proceedings, 254-262 (2017)

“Imagine that…”—How to Activate and Capture Users’ Ability to Think Creatively about Future Use

L Nielsen, S Madsen, A Vorre Hansen

The Role of Creativity in the Management of Innovation: State of the Art and … (2017)

An empirical investigation of the practices and challenges specific to international user studies

S Madsen, L Nielsen, H Hautopp, I Jensen

IFIP Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 132-148 (2015)

A template for design personas: analysis of 47 persona descriptions from Danish industries and organizations

L Nielsen, KS Hansen, J Stage, J Billestrup

International Journal of Sociotechnology and Knowledge Development (IJSKD) 7 …(2015)

Creating and using personas in software development: experiences from practice

J Billestrup, J Stage, A Bruun, L Nielsen, KS Nielsen

International Conference on Human-Centred Software Engineering, 251-258 (2014)

Personas is applicable: a study on the use of personas in Denmark

L Nielsen, K Storgaard Hansen

Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems … (2014)

The use of personas in software development: Advantages, obstacles and experiences in practice

J Billestrup, J Stage, L Nielsen, KS Nielsen

The 36th Information Systems Research Conference in Scandinavia (IRIS 36) (2014)

International user studies: How companies collect and present data about users on international markets

L Nielsen, S Madsen, I Jensen, H Hautopp, L Mulvad

IT-Universitetet i København (2014)

Persona usage in software development: advantages and obstacles

J Billestrup, J Stage, L Nielsen, KS Hansen

Proc. of ACHI, 359-364 (2014)

Going global with personas

L Nielsen, KS Nielsen, J Stage, J Billestrup

IFIP Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 350-357 (2013)


L Nielsen

The encyclopedia of human-computer interaction (2013)

Brugen af personas hos danske virksomheder-2012/13: En rapport om hvordan virksomheder anvender personas

L Nielsen, KS Nielsen

IT University. Technical Report Series (2013)

Personas-user focused design

L Nielsen

Springer (2013)

Personas-From poster to performance

L Nielsen, KS Nielsen

Proceedings of the Participatory Innovation Conference, 272-275 (2013)

Personas in co-creation and co-design

L Nielsen

Proceedings of the 11th Human-Computer Interaction Research Symposium, 38-40 (2011)

Personas in cross-cultural projects

L Nielsen

IFIP Working Conference on Human Work Interaction Design, 76-82. (2009)

Exploring persona-scenarios-using storytelling to create design ideas

S Madsen, L Nielsen

IFIP Working Conference on Human Work Interaction Design, 57-66 (2009)

Using storytelling to improve scenarios

S Madsen, L Nielsen

Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference Information Systems …(2009)

Personas–communication or process

L Nielsen

Proceedings of Seventh Danish HCI Research Symposium 25 (2007)

Ten steps to personas

L Nielsen

Journal of HCI Vistas 3 (2007)

Storytelling as method for sharing knowledge across IT projects

L Nielsen, S Madsen

Proceedings of the 39th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System … (2006)

Using storytelling to reflect on IT projects

L Nielsen, S Madsen

Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application (JITTA) 7 (4), 6 (2006)

Then the picture comes in your mind of what you have seen on TV-A study of personas descriptions and use

L Nielsen

Research Symposium, 68 (2005)

How to use design games to create engaging personas

L Nielsen, E Brandt (2005)

Design Through Engagement

L Nielsen

Computer Interaction Research Symposium, 67 (2004)

Engaging Personas and Narrative Scenarios: A study on how user-centered approach influenced the perception of the design process in the e-business group at AstraZeneca

L Nielsen

Samfundslitteratur (2004)

A model for personas and scenarios creation

L Nielsen

Roskilde, Denmark 71 (2003)

Constructing the user

L Nielsen

Human-computer interaction: theory and practice 430 (2003)

From user to character: an investigation into user-descriptions in scenarios

L Nielsen

Proceedings of the 4th conference on Designing interactive systems … (2002)

Why use Scenarios?

L Nielsen

Learning and narrativity in digital media, 165 (2002)

Understanding Users: Merging Video Card Games with Model-users and Scenarios

L Nielsen, G Petersen (2002)

Scenarios: A Design Tool to Ensure User-narratives

L Nielsen

Learning and narrativity in digital media, 165-181 (2002)

Culture and Personas Perception

This experiment originates from a comment posted on the forum connected to Journal of the HCI Vistas. Here Dinesh Katre wrote; ‘I have always found it difficult to visualize or understand the characters illustrated in the books of P. G. Woodhouse because all are British personalities and I have not lived in Briton so long to understand these personalities as they are quite culture specific.’ (29-01-08). This made me wonder how personas descriptions are perceived and whether culture influences the perception.

Read the article here.

Personas in a cultural world

Research points to, that cultural cultural different readers fill the narrative gaps that occur in every text differently. Having this in mind, it becomes interesting to see how different readers interpret a persona description, as differences in interpretation might have impact on cross-cultural projects. 

In the following I will report from two studies of how people from different cultures perceive a persona description. The first study is reported here at pp. 43-46 and involved six participants from India, China and Denmark, most were young and students. This study was followed by a second study with eight participants from Japan, Brazil, France, Holland, Russia, New Zealand, Germany and USA. All were familiar with the persona method and all were usability professionals.

The persona portrayed a person working with marketing. The description was written in such a way that there were no cues in the text of age, gender and culture.
In both studies the participants were asked to: 1) read a persona description. 2) find a photo on the internet that resembled the persona. 3) write a short comment on why they had chosen this particular photo. 4) mail both photo and comment to me.

The two studies showed interesting differences.

The two photos show suggestions for the persona from the first and second study, respectively.Strategies for finding photosIn the accounts for the choice of photo there seems to be two strategies at play; either interpreting or looking for clues in the description:Interpreting the text and using the interpretation as explanation for the choice of photo ‘I don’t know why but I tend to associate obesity with reluctance to new technology mindset. Don’t ask me why!’(Indian informant 3). ‘Information Technology means he would earn more money than average’ (Chinese informant 1).Finding a specific description in the text that serves as explanation for the choice of photo. ‘She has young children and therefore she could not be old’ (Danish informant 2). ‘he has no time to do much exercise, so he may be a little fat’ (Chinese informant 2).Conclusions from the first studyMost participants picked a photo of a person in a business suit, even the only photo of a female.
Three participants from India and China chose photos of western looking business men, the rest of the participants chose photos of locals.The photos from the male Danish participants show persons with a typical Danish look, the female participant chose a person with a non-Danish expression.All of the Danish participants chose photos of younger persons that chosen by the other participants.There seems to be a shared and stereotypical comprehension of how a business person looks – despite culture.Most chose non local appearance.Conclusions from the second studyThe photos were more mixed in appearanceIn general they portrayed older personsThere was no unambiguous choice of photosFew chose a photo of a business stereotype (except one who has worked with personas)All chose local appearanceAnalysis of both studies showThe participants chose the age of the persona based on their own age.1st experiment: the photos depicted younger persons. Among the participant were several student2nd experiment: the photos depicted older personas. All participants were professionals.The experienced usability professionals had a higher tendency to choose photos of local1st experiment: several chose non-local apperance.2nd experiment: all chose local appearance.The experienced used interpretation of the text as a strategy for finding photos while most of the participants in the first experiment chose to find cues in the text, when they argued for.There seems to be gender stereotypes at play. When men a depicted they are more often in surroundings showing them with their children as the persona is described as one who cares for the family. When women are depicted they are more often in business surroundings.ConclusionThe two studies have several outcomes concerning cross cultural projects:It showed that it is quite easy for the writer to incorporate implicit information. In the first study the writer had given the persona children of a certain age. Together with the age of the persona this, unintended, pointed to a westerner. An Indian reader caught this information immediately as it did not fit with the cultural experience for India.It showed that the readers used their own background when trying to understand the persona description and they used persons in their intimate surroundings in order to relate to the persona description. ’I assume I know the person, because of my previous career and involvement in advertising. I, from the get go, had an idea of how I presumed this person to look, since to me we all looked alike at the agency after a while.. I took inspiration from my former superiors and my general ideas of how people in his position dress and tend to appear physically.’(Danish Informant). ’He has a French look (he looks like my brother in law who has similar position in a company).’ (French Informant). ‘Based on some elements in the text I might be more inclined to make it a male, but then again (being the son of a working mother), there is nothing that will not make it possible in the Netherlands to let this persona be a woman.’ (Dutch informant)When reading a description the readers use two different strategies when depicting the persona; either interpreting or looking for clues in the description. Especially the interpretation strategy and the use of known persons might create unintended results in cross-cultural projects and points to, how crucial it is to get the descriptions verified by locals.AcknowledgementsI want to thank the CultUsab project and UX Alliance and all the participants.

The effect of personas is finally proved

In the research Paper – Real or Imaginary: The effectiveness of using personas in product design by Frank Long, the author investigates the effectiveness of using personas. The results showed that personas:

  • Produces designs with superior usability characteristics.
  • Provide a significant advantage during the research and conceptualisation stages of the design process.
  • Photographs works better than illustrations.
  • Visual storyboards are more effective in presenting task scenarios than text only versions.

Personas posters

Articleed November 5th, 2009 | Lene Nielsen | Personas (DK)Personas (UK).

personas poster

The poster 10 Steps to Personas are now translated into several languages. You can download a low resolution version of the poster here.

10-trin-til-personas (Danish)

10-steps-to-personas (English)

Personas-in-10-stappen (Dutch)

10 Steps

Jose Vittone has translated the poster to Spanish. You can find his version here:

Persona-Scenarios in Context

Articleed January 28th, 2010 by Lene Nielsen & filed under Scenarios (UK).


By Sabine Madsen, Lene Nielsen

In this paper we explore the persona-scenario method as a means for requirements determination. More specifically, we investigate how the method can support groups of diverse ISD project participants in constructing and presenting multiple stories that complement each other in generating many, new, and shared understandings and design ideas. As persona-scenarios are stories about personas using IT systems we draw on narrative theory to define what a persona-scenario is and which narrative elements it should consist of. The conceptual clarification is used as an analytical lens for understanding an empirical study of a workshop that was held as a part of a large project concerned with redesign of an e-report portal for Danish governmental bodies. The aim of the workshop was to develop persona-scenarios about the future use of e-reports. A key finding is that despite our inherent human ability to construct, tell, and interpret stories it is not easy to write and present a good, coherent, and design-oriented story without methodical support. The paper therefore contributes to the field of ISD with theoretical and empirically grounded guidelines that delineate a) what a design-oriented persona-scenario should consist of (product) and b) how to write it (procedure) in order to generate and validate as many, new, and shared understandings and design ideas as possible (purpose).

Download the full paper:

Tags: e-reportinginformation systems developmentnarrative theoryPersonas (DK)scenariosStorytelling

Links from InfoDesign

Love, Hate, and Empathy: Why We Still Need Personas

by Kyra Edeker, Jan Moorman

UX is a relatively nascent discipline: a boisterous, hopeful, opinionated, and insightful young adult who sometimes lacks perspective. Need evidence? Just yesterday personas were a UX designers’ BFF, but today? Well, not so much.

There’s been some gossip about how they are ‘fakes’ and really don’t help build empathy. Some have even called for their total abandonment. What’s behind this trajectory from love to hate? Is there hope for personas as real empathy builders?

Read the whole article here: 

Personas: A Critical Investment For Content Strategy
Personas as the silver bullet to guarantee empathy?
“Content strategy isn’t really a discipline but a defined approach to handling an organization’s content consistently across departments and channels. It can only be effective if it becomes ubiquitous to the processes and procedures that already exist within business – communications, public relations, customer service, marketing, graphic design, IT, etc. While the defined strategy may be about content, the tactics by which we achieve our content goals are really about people. Who are we publishing content for? How will they interact with the content we present? How do they define relevancy? What is meaningful and engaging to them? Borrowing a tool that user experience and interaction designers have used for years, personas are a powerful way to not only create and implement a sound content strategy, but to facilitate its adoption by everyone in the organization.”
(Kristina Mausser a.k.a. @krismausser ~ Follow the UX Leader)

Using Personas During Design and Documentation
“(…) although demographics and task analysis play an important part in persona creation, personas are more than just a collection of user profiles and groups. You should make them as real as you can. They should embody all the human attributes you’d expect to find in your users. For example, they could be moody, very task oriented, work in a specific type of environment, or even hate the idea of referring to documentation unless they are absolutely compelled to do so.”
(Niranjan Jahagirdar and Arun Joseph Martin ~

Zombie Personas
“This is by far the nerdiest episode we ever did, so fasten your seat belts. In his session at UXcamp, Tom said: “Personas – love ‘em or hate ‘em – you can’t not use ‘em. Either you have zombies, or you have living ones.” In this recording of his session he talks about different kinds of zombies like Mirror Personas, Undead Personas, Unicorn Personas or Stupid User Personas. He gives advice on how to avoid these fellas and how to make good use of living personas during a project. As a bonus, Tom explains why 37signals doesn’t need personas at all.”
(UX Café)

Using Persona Advocates to develop user-centric intranets and portals
“Grasping complex information needs and uses can indeed be daunting. One powerful design tool, personas, can help make sense of these needs and provide a framework for building Intranets that will satisfy a variety of needs. Effectively developed and used, personas enable Intranet teams to hone in on user needs and build interfaces and user experiences that end-user audiences can and will use.”

(McQueen Consulting)

Personas as User Assistance and Navigation Aids
“A lot of work goes into creating personas, and I was delighted to discover this innovative way in which the team carried forward the benefits of that work into the final product, where users could benefit from it as well. The personas also provide a rich form of user experience by portraying typical practices for effectively using the portal. I recommend that other UX designers consider applying personas in this way—initially using these user research artifacts during design, then incorporating them into products as user assistance and navigation aids.”
(Mike Hughes ~ UXmatters)

The Essence of a Successful Persona Project
“Personas are a flexible and powerful tool for user researchers. They’re also one of the most misunderstood. When done well, they ensure the team focuses on the needs and delights of their users. Like other effective user research techniques, personas deliver confidence and insights to the team. Personas help the team make important design decisions with a thorough understanding of who the users are, what they need, and when they need it.”
(Jared Spool)

New PhD Dissertation on Personas and Scenarios

Rosa Gudjonsdottir has in June 2010  defended her PhD thesis “Personas and Scenarios in Use.

Read the full dissertation here:

ABSTRACT: Personas are fictitious characters that represent the needs of the intended users, and scenarios complementing the personas describe how their needs can be met. The present doctoral thesis considers the usage of personas and scenarios and how they are used in system development projects. The study is motivated by the relative lack of empirical data on the persona method in actual use.The study was carried out in the context of a large international research project called Nepomuk and involved two conceptually dif ferent field studies. On the one hand, field studies in user settings were conducted, which aimed at creating personas and scenarios, and for which a user-centered design approach was applied using partici pant observation, contextual interviews, video brainstorming and proto typing. On the other hand, a field study in the setting of the Nepomuk project itself was conducted, which aimed at observing how the per sonas and scenarios were received and used in the project work. The work conducted in the project setting was a multi-sited ethnographic field study, which was documented through ethnographic writing.The project setting field study showed that the persona method was difficult to put into consistent use, and the support of persona advocates guiding usage would have been helpful. The method was used without much effort to communicate about the needs and desires of the intended users, but was less successful in compelling project members to use personas and scenarios during various design activities. The field study also revealed alternative usages of the method that can be supported and utilized.The contributions of the thesis include an account of the effect the storytelling aspect has on the creation as well as usage of personas and scenarios. Also, the essential elements of constructing personas and scenarios are discussed as well as the prerequisites for making personas and scenarios support the design process in system development projects. Lastly, the thesis describes how personas and scenarios can support the communication of user needs and desires to project members and stakeholders as well as support design activities in system development projects