User Personas: A Sherlock Holmes Analogy (Intro to User Persona)

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Have you ever heard about Sherlock Holmes? Yep, the detective. Or should I say consulting detective? He lives in Baker Street, 221 B. His roommate is John Watson, who used to be a doctor in the army. Sherlock thinks really fast, extremely observative, and accurate about his deduction. I can tell you so much about the great Sherlock Holmes, like his habits or how he dressed, but then I will tell you that he is a fictional character. All of this explanation, and you might be thinking, so what?

Now going to the actual topic, I will introduce you to something called user persona. Based on interaction-design.org,

Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. Creating personas helps the designer to understand users’ needs, experiences, behaviors, and goals.

So, user personas are basically fictional characters you made to be the target users of your product. With that being said, that does not mean that I can make Sherlock Holmes my user persona. Although I like his character very much, we have to make the user persona from a research's actual data upon your product’s user needs. Personas should answer the question, “who are we designing for?”. If we understand the expectations, concerns, and motivations, we will be more likely to fulfill the target user's needs.

Why User Persona?

How Do You Define A User Persona?

What if I don’t have time to conduct any research?

Step 1: Identify patterns and differences between users.

Step 2: Create your personas!

In this step, you have to name each persona and describe them in 1–2 pages. These descriptions including:

  • A picture
  • Basic Information

Basic information here including demographics such as name, age, occupation, marital status, and location.

  • Goals

Goals are one of the keys to a persona. It shows us the main goal the need to achieve with our product. With that information, we can make a product that will satisfy and fulfill their goals.

  • Frustations / Pain points

Frustrations here means things that get in the way of achieving users’ goals. This is also important because the product we are going to make is based on the persona and try to solve their frustrations and pain points.

  • More details to make him/her more realistic and relevant to help build empathy (e.g., habits)

Step 3: Put it in a scenario.

Step 4: Share and get feedback!

Here’s one of my team’s product personas for the PPL project:

Mrs. Susi is a 35 years old housewife who lives in Jati Asih, Bekasi. As a housewife, she cooks every day for her family. That means she produced used cooking oil every day as well. One of her frustrations is she doesn’t know where to dispose of the used cooking oil since it cannot be thrown away just anywhere. She also doesn’t know if there is an app that does trash pick up from door to door and get an incentive. That’s why our product goal is to accommodate people like Mrs. Susi, so people can store their used cooking oil and get incentives from it by just staying at home.

Another example of persona is Valen, a user persona from my other project:

Valen is a university student, who lives alone in Depok. He majored in computer science and also an active player in basketball. Being active academically and non-academically makes Valen a really busy person. There are also a lot of times when he stays up all night to do his homework so he often gets sick. But being the busy student he is, he doesn’t want to spend more time visiting a doctor to talk about his health. He hopes that he can figure out his health by not going to the hospital to meet a doctor.

So, can Sherlock be on the list of the personas? He could, when your research showed that a user — exactly like him, is part of the target user. But, just a small tip, avoid using real names or existing characters to prevent bias in the objectivity of personas. Or you’ll end up making the design only for him!

Computer Science, University of Indonesia

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