Capturing and implementing personas is a ritual in most UX design lifecycles. User personas are useful to visualize your design’s consumers while incorporating the UX design philosophies in your business.

According to experience Dynamics, “A persona is a vivid, narrative description of a fictitious person who represents a segment of your user population. It is based on primary research that uncovers the real attitudes, goals, and behaviors of the users it represents.”

While user personas may help you progress in design to quite an extent, their credibility is still questionable due to the weaknesses that they exhibit when taken too literally.

What is disconcerting about user personas is that after spending significant time, effort, and money on them, they don’t quite cut the mustard in terms of universal user acceptance for a product.

In this blog, we delve into some of the common problems of UX designers’ user personas.

Inaccuracy

Personas driven by insufficient or premature data, doctored with many assumptions, can be catastrophic in a real-world environment. The goals and pain points of actual users must be captured with significant accuracy. Creating a balance between business and user needs makes this imperative.

Designers sometimes become biased or self-referential when collected data is inaccurate or flawed. Choosing an inaccurate target group can also cull the progress of a design.

However, the need for accuracy can pose problems for UX designers that need to portray the personas and predict their responses quickly.

Lack of Empathy

Personas dwell not only on designer perspective and technical point of view but also on a certain degree of user empathy. UX designers’ focus on meeting business objectives can stand in the way of thinking about how they would use a product themselves.

Thus, empathy often becomes the missing link in creating functional designs. Basing the target users off individual bias and intuition can be a formula for design catastrophe. There is a fine line between emotions and practicality in design that can be met through applied empathy.

Although, problems also arise from overconfidence in the ability to empathize or unreliable inferences made from user behavior.

Significant Effort Spent on Research

It takes a lot of leg work to develop and maintain personas, which is why capturing the right personas empirically is paramount. Basing a design on workflows without evidence-based execution is often pointless, especially when the product is designed to cater to different users with varied requirements.

A single persona hypothesis can lead to a single-use design workflow and can even lead to variants of a persona being created that are never used. This defeats the purpose of leveraging personas for future design success.

Low Credibility

It takes a lot of leg work to develop and maintain personas, which is why legitimate research-based persona development is important for making evidence-based decisions.

It is crucial to include links supporting research and workflow analysis, even in a simulated environment, when a designer develops a persona.

In researching his book, Validating Product Ideas, Tomer Sharon interviewed 200 product managers and found that 86% of product managers are inspired by a personal pain experience vs. only 2% who do User Research for product design idea validation.

Depending on where you get your data/ insight, Persona authenticity and credibility range from low to high. Experience Dynamics has depicted LOW credibility for these data sources.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is p1.png

Lack of Leadership Buy-in

Leadership sometimes devalues personas as they feel they “know” their users. Inside-Out decision-making can enshroud personas’ primary organizational benefits and the quantification of design constraints based on real-time users’ lifestyles and abilities.

The lack of leadership support & involvement in exploring & defining personas makes designs highly opinionated & biased. This could lead to pushing back on user personas and not leveraging their potential.

If creating a persona doesn’t involve all stakeholders, it will be viewed with skepticism, which slows or prevents design adoption.

The engineering culture today requires that everyone, including designers, opines about developing personas. Dismissing a collaborative environment can lead to design repercussions.

Low ROI Risk

Forrester Research studied redesigns and found that teams using personas had a four-fold ROI over teams that did not. Outdated user personas or unused personas can increase redesign costs, support costs, & training needs while demanding more documentation work to lead to product implementation delays.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is p2.png
Image Source: Experience Dynamics

Low User Adoption & Acceptance

Just developing smart personas is pointless unless the majority of the product consumers adopt and accept it. Fear of technology is an important factor, especially with older users, that affects the adoption rate through design.

The problem here is that discussions about desired functionality may be an emotionally sensitive topic. Understanding the emotions of all the product user types is great but close to impossible. The emotional needs of one user persona may not be suitable for another.

A product design that appeals to some and not others can lead to project failures and low user acceptance.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is p3.png
Image Source: Experience Dynamics

Ineffective for Special Needs

Personas don’t help accurately represent users with special needs, like those with vision or hearing impairment or users from marginalized communities. These users might find it uncomfortable discussing their requirements and expectations.

This makes it difficult for the researcher to assess the impact of personas on the design problem fully. Capturing emotions and having an empathetic outlook in these cases can be challenging for the UX design researcher.

Conclusion

While personas are extremely effective for aiding the design of products, working with a large cast of personas given their limitations is likely to be unwieldy.

Personas can never provide a perfect prediction of how end-users will respond. But, totally forgoing them can be a risky exercise in modern-day UX design.

Capturing and implementing personas is a ritual in most UX design lifecycles. User personas are useful to visualize your design’s consumers while incorporating the UX design philosophies in your business.

According to experience Dynamics, “A persona is a vivid, narrative description of a fictitious person who represents a segment of your user population. It is based on primary research that uncovers the real attitudes, goals, and behaviors of the users it represents.”

While user personas may help you progress in design to quite an extent, their credibility is still questionable due to the weaknesses that they exhibit when taken too literally.

What is disconcerting about user personas is that after spending significant time, effort, and money on them, they don’t quite cut the mustard in terms of universal user acceptance for a product.

In this blog, we delve into some of the common problems of UX designers’ user personas.

Inaccuracy

Personas driven by insufficient or premature data, doctored with many assumptions, can be catastrophic in a real-world environment. The goals and pain points of actual users must be captured with significant accuracy. Creating a balance between business and user needs makes this imperative.

Designers sometimes become biased or self-referential when collected data is inaccurate or flawed. Choosing an inaccurate target group can also cull the progress of a design.

However, the need for accuracy can pose problems for UX designers that need to portray the personas and predict their responses quickly.

Lack of Empathy

Personas dwell not only on designer perspective and technical point of view but also on a certain degree of user empathy. UX designers’ focus on meeting business objectives can stand in the way of thinking about how they would use a product themselves.

Thus, empathy often becomes the missing link in creating functional designs. Basing the target users off individual bias and intuition can be a formula for design catastrophe. There is a fine line between emotions and practicality in design that can be met through applied empathy.

Although, problems also arise from overconfidence in the ability to empathize or unreliable inferences made from user behavior.

Significant Effort Spent on Research

It takes a lot of leg work to develop and maintain personas, which is why capturing the right personas empirically is paramount. Basing a design on workflows without evidence-based execution is often pointless, especially when the product is designed to cater to different users with varied requirements.

A single persona hypothesis can lead to a single-use design workflow and can even lead to variants of a persona being created that are never used. This defeats the purpose of leveraging personas for future design success.

Low Credibility

It takes a lot of leg work to develop and maintain personas, which is why legitimate research-based persona development is important for making evidence-based decisions.

It is crucial to include links supporting research and workflow analysis, even in a simulated environment, when a designer develops a persona.

In researching his book, Validating Product Ideas, Tomer Sharon interviewed 200 product managers and found that 86% of product managers are inspired by a personal pain experience vs. only 2% who do User Research for product design idea validation.

Depending on where you get your data/ insight, Persona authenticity and credibility range from low to high. Experience Dynamics has depicted LOW credibility for these data sources.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is p1.png

Lack of Leadership Buy-in

Leadership sometimes devalues personas as they feel they “know” their users. Inside-Out decision-making can enshroud personas’ primary organizational benefits and the quantification of design constraints based on real-time users’ lifestyles and abilities.

The lack of leadership support & involvement in exploring & defining personas makes designs highly opinionated & biased. This could lead to pushing back on user personas and not leveraging their potential.

If creating a persona doesn’t involve all stakeholders, it will be viewed with skepticism, which slows or prevents design adoption.

The engineering culture today requires that everyone, including designers, opines about developing personas. Dismissing a collaborative environment can lead to design repercussions.

Low ROI Risk

Forrester Research studied redesigns and found that teams using personas had a four-fold ROI over teams that did not. Outdated user personas or unused personas can increase redesign costs, support costs, & training needs while demanding more documentation work to lead to product implementation delays.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is p2.png
Image Source: Experience Dynamics

Low User Adoption & Acceptance

Just developing smart personas is pointless unless the majority of the product consumers adopt and accept it. Fear of technology is an important factor, especially with older users, that affects the adoption rate through design.

The problem here is that discussions about desired functionality may be an emotionally sensitive topic. Understanding the emotions of all the product user types is great but close to impossible. The emotional needs of one user persona may not be suitable for another.

A product design that appeals to some and not others can lead to project failures and low user acceptance.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is p3.png
Image Source: Experience Dynamics

Ineffective for Special Needs

Personas don’t help accurately represent users with special needs, like those with vision or hearing impairment or users from marginalized communities. These users might find it uncomfortable discussing their requirements and expectations.

This makes it difficult for the researcher to assess the impact of personas on the design problem fully. Capturing emotions and having an empathetic outlook in these cases can be challenging for the UX design researcher.

Conclusion

While personas are extremely effective for aiding the design of products, working with a large cast of personas given their limitations is likely to be unwieldy.

Personas can never provide a perfect prediction of how end-users will respond. But, totally forgoing them can be a risky exercise in modern-day UX design.

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