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Consumer Understanding, Human Centered Design, Service Design

Good Reasons to Create Great Personas

Boston 01.23.13, 10:16AM by Brian Gillespie


Over the years I have been asked to explain the value of personas. After all, they come in all shapes and sizes and can be expensive to create when you set out to do it right. When I say right, I mean supported by contextual research into the circumstances of the target audience followed by a thorough analysis of that context, which results in great information design artifacts capturing the essence of the personas. This qualitative form of persona can also be enhanced by subsequent quantitative research, which may provide accurate insights into the relative size, value, and desires of personas, acting more as market segmentation and supporting business strategy. This balanced qualitative/quantitative approach can be very useful when integrating business and design teams to form a viable customer-focused strategy. The following is a short list of factors that make personas a very valuable strategic design tool for business.

How personas are a driver of digital innovation, in no particular order…

>  Provide a framework for generating ideas that satisfy a particular audience
Each persona is a channel
Drivers of user-generated innovation…based on real needs, responding to certain behaviors and motivations
After conducting extensive consumer research the creation of personas is an excellent tool for synthesizing the information discovered
They keep the design and business team objective in identifying needs etc.
Enables designers to empathize with a target audience
They have the potential to generate a-ha moments for business
They can tie ideas and concepts back to real market segmentation
Supports the generation of measurement strategies by tying brought-to-market concepts back to specific market segments…targeted validation
A persona is a cognitive shorthand to understanding a large body of information
Informs the creation of key user experience deliverables especially information architecture and content strategy

It is also worth calling out the benefits of a program of Persona Socialization, where personas are introduced to the business through a variety of means and materials…
Allows internal business teams keep their eyes on the prize, when bringing new products and services to market
Helps communication and consensus between internal teams tasked with bringing new products and services to market
Provides a solid basis for personifying target audiences over time

Please feel free to add to this growing list!


  1. Nice one Brian!

    All of the above indeed! I’m currently preparing a persona workshop for a large client with my team. One of the things we’re using the personas for is to trigger the debate on which parts of the user experience can be targeted to a specific audience and which parts must satisfy all groups. That question can partly be answered by looking at which personas would require a specific approach and which would be satisfied by a ‘generic’ approach. What we’re discovering is that this depends largely on which part of the journey you’re looking at. That’s why we often use personas in conjunction with customer journey mapping.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Brian Gillespie says:

    Thanks, Erik. What you outline as an approach makes a lot of sense. Different strokes for different folks because no ones journey is exactly the same. I think you are inspiring my next persona-oriented blog…to go into details on the practical use of personas to support design methods!

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