Icons of many faces

Creating and using personas

SDS have recently developed a set of personas based on research with Full Time Fire Fighters, On Call Fire Fighters and Non-Operational Teams for Kent Fire and Rescue Service. In this blog post we share some of the things we learnt about creating and using personas during this project.

What are personas?

Personas are fictional characters created to represent different groups of people. They are based on research with real people and are designed to embody the characteristics, goals, needs, behaviours, and preferences of specific groups.

Using personas

Organisations use personas when they want to create a shared understanding of different groups of people. Personas help to build empathy with target users and understand their needs. This enables organisations to design and deliver services that truly resonate with their target audience. Leading to improved customer experience and satisfaction.

The benefits and limitations

Personas serve as powerful tools for fostering empathy, aligning teams around a shared understanding of the user, and driving user-centred design and decision-making across an organisation. However, there is a risk of oversimplifying and generalising which can lead to stereotyping and inaccurate representations of the real user groups.

To maximise the benefits of personas and mitigate the challenges and limitations, organisations should do thorough research to ensure that personas accurately reflect the groups they are representing.

Steps to create personas

Step one: Clearly define the purpose of creating personas and identify the specific goals you aim to achieve with them.

Step two: Conduct thorough research ideally through interviews or focus groups with the different groups of people. If this isn’t possible the next best thing is to interview people who directly communicate with these groups instead. These might be customer-facing employees such as call centre staff or customer support agents etc.

Step three: Analyse the collected data, look for similarities and differences in demographics, behaviours, and needs to determine distinct user groups that will form the basis of your personas.

Step four: Create detailed personas representing the different groups of people. You should make these personas as realistic and specific as possible. Put yourself in the shoes of your users to understand their perspective, needs, and motivations. Empathy-driven personas result in more authentic representations of your target audience.

Step five: Make them look good – the better the design and layout of your persona the more likely it is to be used. You can jazz up your personas with icons, illustrations, and brand colours. Use headings to break the persona up into sections and make it easier to scan.

Step six: Share personas across the organisation. Encourage teams to reference personas during training, decision-making processes etc.

Step seven: Review and update personas regularly based on new research, feedback, and changes in the groups to ensure they remain relevant.

Types of Personas

Personas can be presented in various formats, depending on the preferences of the organisation and the intended audience.

Persona profiles are detailed documents that provide a written description of the persona’s background, goals, challenges, and key traits, along with photos and illustrations. They are often split into sections making them easy to scan.

Persona posters are visual representations of personas that are designed to be displayed prominently in team spaces or meeting rooms. They typically include a combination of text and visuals to communicate key information about each persona in a concise and engaging format.

Persona cards are compact, portable cards that provide a quick reference to key information about each persona. They are often used during brainstorming sessions, workshops, or meetings to remind team members of the target audience.

Storyboarding involves creating visual narratives or scenarios that illustrate how personas interact with a product or service in different situations. Storyboards can help teams understand the user journey and identify opportunities for improvement.

Interactive personas are digital or interactive representations of personas. They allow users to explore and interact with different aspects of the persona’s profile. They may include clickable elements, animations, or multimedia content.

Video profiles involve creating short videos that bring personas to life by featuring actors or voiceovers portraying the persona’s characteristics, goals, and behaviours. Video profiles can be engaging and memorable, making them effective for communicating personas to a wide audience.

Could personas help you?

If personas are created with thorough research and presented in an engaging way, they can serve as powerful tools for fostering empathy and aligning teams around a shared understanding of the user. This user focus helps to ensure services are meeting customer needs and this in turn improves the customer experience.

If you would like to find out more about creating and using personas and the project we did for Kent Fire and Rescue Service please get in touch.