A persona is a single representation of a subset of your target audience who have similar behaviors, goals, motivations and needs when it comes to your product and UX, we create personas to use as a tool, a tool to help us get very deep understanding of our target audience so that ultimately we can create a more user centered product and solution.
We often already know a lot about our users and we may do additional research to understand them more. But unless we really analyze all of this qualitative data, these stories and packaged them all up and an easy to understand component, it can be really hard for your team and your project team to get on the same page. And it can be difficult to apply the knowledge we have about our users to the products. So personas are a vehicle for storing and communicating information about people in a way that no other artifact really can do this by humanizing complex data, which makes it much easier to consume. And remember, because as people, we naturally relate to other people and we can internalize this data in the form of stories, and we can always apply the knowledge we have about our users at any point in the project without personas.
Your team really has no focus. Every person on your design team is designing based on assumptions and they’re designing for themselves, which we know is problematic. Personas give your team very specific people references and they give your team a design target that everyone can focus on. And this will really propel them to make informed, user centered decisions every step of project development, which ultimately is going to result in solutions that truly meet the needs of your users.
When Making Design Tradeoffs, Don’t Forget Hidden Costs
Designers should consider both the costs and benefits of each design choice, but this isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s easy to think of the benefits and most of us tend to focus on those. For example, when a new feature is suggested, we think about the users who’ve requested this feature and everything they’ll be able to do once the feature is launched. Direct costs like how much you have to spend to actually build a feature are also pretty obvious. The problems that come up when making design tradeoffs are often related to hidden costs. Hidden costs occur because whenever you choose one option, like adding a new feature, you necessarily are not choosing the alternative, such as keeping the status quo. Any unique benefit of the status quo becomes a hidden cost of adding your new feature. For example, the status quo might be a really quick streamline interface that people can use in 30 seconds flat. When you add a new feature, you may slow people down. For example, if the new feature has a name that’s unfamiliar to many people and they stop to wonder what it is. Economists call these hidden costs opportunity costs because they represent potential gains that are sacrificed in the pursuit of something else. Opportunity costs tend to be unintended side effects, things that you weren’t even thinking about as a consequence of the design choice. When making design tradeoffs, you need a rigorous process which analyzes alternatives to identify these opportunity costs before you get stuck paying them.