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 Lifecycle Graphic

Family Planning

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.

Adulthood

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:

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.

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By the way…

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Before I worked on any of the design elements of this site, I worked on the site 'skeleton.' If you are starting your design process by creating documents that look anything like pages or wireframes, you are painting yourself into a corner.