Jobs-to-Be-Done vs. Personas

I get asked all the time, have jobs to be done, made persona’s obsolete? The answer is a firm no jobs to be done are another useful tool, but they haven’t killed persona’s not by far persona’s and jobs to be done are completely compatible. Jobs to be done are a fairly new framework for thinking in a user centered way about features for products. The idea is that people hire your product to fulfill a need and they may have hired your product for something you didn’t even envision. For example, the old Henry Ford quote where he said, If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.

The job to be done in that situation was the need to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, not the specific way that they got there, not the form of transportation. So product teams, they’ll do user research and they’ll write up a list of these jobs to be done in simple, clear language. So they have them as a reference for what they should build. The thinking goes, if you can identify that real underlying need, that root cause, you can be better equipped to design something that helps satisfy the need better than you could if you were just focusing on features, demographics or specific types of users. Based on this, I’ve heard a lot of people express the idea that jobs to be done are a better input for design than going by demographics and personas. But that’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding. Good personas aren’t focused on demographics because those don’t tell us much about user behavior. In fact, good personas don’t really need much demographic information at all. Personas that are a useful tool for designers are all that user’s needs, their goals, their expectations, their behaviors and their attitudes. It’s very similar to the type of information that jobs to be done can tell you. Plus, they help your team empathize with your users. I’ve never met a team that was burdened by too much empathy for their users. So this is really an important factor persona’s also help you to balance the needs of different users.

Not everybody has the same goals and expectations for your product. So personas help you weigh competing factors and prioritize those different users needs effectively. And finally, remember, personas and jobs to be done are 100 percent compatible. If you want to use both, great, you can list the top jobs to be done that apply to each persona right there on the persona. Or you can show all your jobs to be done in a big list and tag each one with all the personas that are looking to hire for those jobs personas. Give us so much additional detail about needs and goals while promoting empathy for our users. I take that stuff away from your team. Jobs to be done are just another tool. They’re like personas. They help us focus on creating useful products that meet our users needs.

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