The paper ‘Is stereotyping inevitable when designing with personas‘ gives a good account on user representations and how personas risk stereotyping. The authors gives an overview of the application of personas, and discuss the psychological roots of stereotyping and why it is so powerful.

They give examples of different tactics to counter the tendency to stereotype, such as considering personas as archetypes, using transfer scenarios where users close to the intended users are studied and the knowledge transferred to the personas, using narrative style, and techniques to educate designers on stereotyping.

The paper is really good, but I find that the authors have missed to look into character creation in fiction and film as a mean to avoid stereotyping. My studies of fiction have shown that there are five areas to be adressed in order to avoid stereotyping. The description of a persona should depict the physics, background, psyche, present emotions of the persona, and portray more than one character trait.

Publications on using quantitative data to establish personas

I have collected a few articles on how to use quantitative data to establish personas. If you know of more do not hesitate to write me and I will add them to the list.

Using quantitative data to establish personas:

Brickey, J., Walczak, S., Burgess, T. (2012). Comparing Semi-Automated Clustering Methods for Persona Development. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, May-June 2012, 38 , 3, p. 537 – 546

“Current and future information systems require a better understanding of the interactions between users and systems in order to improve system use and, ultimately, success. The use of personas as design tools is becoming more widespread as researchers and practitioners discover its benefits. This paper presents an empirical study comparing the performance of existing qualitative and quantitative clustering techniques for the task of identifying personas and grouping system users into those personas. A method based on Factor (Principal Components) Analysis performs better than two other methods which use Latent Semantic Analysis and Cluster Analysis as measured by similarity to expert manually defined clusters.”

Tu, N., Dong X.,  Rau, P.-L.P., Zhang, T. (2010). Using cluster analysis in Persona development. 8th International Conference on Supply Chain Management and Information Systems (SCMIS), 2010 6-9 Oct. 2010, p. 1 – 5

“Personas are user models that represent the user characteristics. In this paper we describe a Persona creation process which combines the quantitative method such as cluster analysis with qualitative method such as observation and interview to produce convincing and representative Personas. We illustrate the Personas creation process through a case study. We use cluster analysis to group the users by their similarities in goals and decision-making preference.”

Siegel. D. A. (2010) The mystique of numbers: belief in quantitative approaches to segmentation and persona development. Proceedings of CHI EA ’10, p.4721-4732

“Quantitative market research and qualitative user-centered design research have long had an uneasy and complex relationship. A trend toward increasingly complex statistical segmentations and associated personas will once again increase the urgency of addressing paradigm differences to allow the two disciplines to collaborate effectively.

We present an instructive case in which qualitative field research helped contribute to abandoning a “state of the art” quantitative user segmentation that was used in an attempt to unify both marketing and user experience planning around a shared model of users. This case exposes risks in quantitative segmentation research, common fallacies in the evolving practice of segmentation and use of personas, and the dangers of excessive deference to quantitative research generally.”

McGinn, J. Kotamraju, N. (2008). Data-driven persona development. Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. April 2008, CHI ’08.

“Much has been written on creating personas — both what they are good for, and how to create them. A common problem with personas is that they are not based on real customer data, and if they are, the data set is not of a sample size that can be considered statistically significant. In this paper, we describe a new method for creating and validating personas, based on the statistical analysis of data, which is fast and cost effective.”

Plinio Thomaz Aquino Junior , Lucia Vilela Leite Filgueiras (2005), User modeling with personas. Proceedings of the 2005 Latin American conference on Human-computer interaction, p.277-282, October 23-26, 2005, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Erik Markensten , Henrik Artman, (2004). Procuring a usable system using unemployed personas. Proceedings of the third Nordic conference on Human-computer interaction, p.13-22, October 23-27, 2004, Tampere, Finland

Rashmi Sinha (2003). Persona development for information-rich domains. Extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems. CHI ’03 April 05-10, 2003, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Goodwin, Kim (2002). Getting from Research to Personas: Harnessing the Power of Data.

Goodwin, Kim (2001). Perfecting Your Personas.

Fiction based personas

Most agree that personas are built on data, but several have experimented with purely fiction-based personas. These personas are often used to explore design and generate discussion and insights in the field. There are several suggestions to use fiction, here are a couple of links for inspiration:

Ad hoc personas are based on the designers intuition and experience and used to create an empathetic focus in the design process.

Assumption-based personas capture the organization’s current thinking about the customers.

Extreme Characters help generating design insights and explore edges of the design space.

Pastiche scenarios creates personas derived from fiction like Bridget Jones or Ebenezer Scrooge and help designers to be reflexive when creating scenarios.

Proto-personas originate from brainstorming workshops where company participants try to encapsulate the organization’s beliefs (based on their domain expertise and gut feeling) about who is using their product or service and what is motivating them to do so. They give an organization a starting point from which to begin evaluating their products and to create some early design hypotheses.

Discussions about validity and value have emerged (e.g. When does a Persona stop being a Persona and Assumption personas help overcome hurdles), and the article Beyond Fake Personas suggests a continuum from Persona Sketch, over Persona Hypothesis and Provisional Personas to Robust Personas ending in Complete Personas.

Most important is to remember that fiction based personas are for discussions and explorations rather than actual design.

International User Studies and Personas

Articleed July 7th, 2014 | Lene Nielsen | Personas (DK)Personas (UK).

Invitation to seminar, 26 August 2014, IT University of Copenhagen

We invite companies with an interest in international markets, users, and personas to a seminar on international user studies. At the seminar we will present the results from our latest research project on how Danish companies do International User Studies and in line with that work with International Personas.

Practical information
Date: Tuesday 26 August 2014 Time: 13.00–16.00
Place: The IT University of Copenhagen
Rued Langgaardsvej 7, 2300 Copenhagen S
(Room to be announced)
Price: Participation is free of charge but registration is necessary
Registration: Register at InfinITs website
Deadline: Friday 22. August

Personas Make Users Memorable for Product Team Members

Articleed March 6th, 2015 | Lene Nielsen | Personas (DK).

Empathy needs tools to grow. Personas are intended to do so.

“When based on user research, personas support user-centered design throughout a project’s lifecycle by making characteristics of key user segments more salient.”

Aurora Bedford ~ Nielsen Norman Group)

(from InfoDesign)