The Persona Lifecycle
Did you know that most persona efforts fail as soon as the personas are completed? Teams create wonderful personas, design fabulous posters to put on the walls, and say ‘ta-da! We have personas!’ Creating personas is really just the beginning. A persona is not a document—it is a clear understanding of a target customer that exists in the minds of your team. The persona lifecycle was designed to address, not only the creation of personas, but also their use in the everyday activities related to the planning, design, evaluation, and even release of a product.
After we create personas—whether they are ad-hoc or data-driven—we’ll figure out how to use the personas to achieve the goals we identified at the beginning of our work together.
The personal lifecycle consists of 5 phases:
Persona development begins with family planning; this is the research phase that precedes the actual creation of the personas.
Conception & Gestation
During Conception & Gestation, the team extracts useful information out of disparate data sources and uses this information to build personas. In other words, we will turn data into information and information into personas.
Birth and Maturation
Like parents sending young children off to school, you and your core team will send your personas into your organization to interact with other people. The personas are fully formed but may continue to evolve slightly over time. Moreover, throughout the remainder of the development cycle, your personas will continue to develop in the minds of your product team.
During Adulthood, personas are "all grown up" and they have a job to do. The organization will ‘know’ the personas; now it’s time to help everyone use the personas to inform the design and development of the product.
Lifetime Achievement, Reuse & Retirement
At the end of the project, it’s important to measure the success of the persona effort and create a plan to reuse or retire the personas.
No matter how you create them, personas will make your customer data usable to the people designing your website, product, or service experience. Well-crafted personas:
- Create a rich, shared understanding of what you mean when you say ‘our customers’ or ‘our users’,
- Encourage the entire organization to focus on your customers’ goals, Extract more value from data you’ve already collected for other purposes, Create a shared vocabulary between multiple departments in your organization and enable everyone to organize data, consume complexity, and recall facts related to your customers,
- Enable yourself and other stakeholders to make informed decisions about design alternatives-decisions that are supported by the data used to create the personas, Identify ‘holes’ in your existing data (and understanding of your customers) and establish a framework for future data collection,
- Depoliticize the interactions between various teams in your organization.
Unlike other persona creation- and use methodologies, the Persona Lifecycle approach is designed to ensure that the personas you work so hard to create will actually be used—and useful—during the design and development process. Using personas should be fun and should solve real problems, and that’s what the lifecycle is all about.