The role of personas in service design

The most successful organizations and brands are those that start with people when it comes to creating products or services that deliver great experiences.

Conceptually, that makes total sense but how do you tangibly put that concept into action? This is where personas come into play. Personas can be a powerful tool to create empathy for your service users with internal stakeholders and design teams as well as to ensure there is an understanding of nuances, behaviours and preferences of the people you are attempting to serve. Creating a great experience impacts the user’s emotions and it’s difficult to effectively design something impactful for a stat, segment or an ambiguous ‘user’. This is where personas can help.

Personas make thoughts, feelings, pain-points and needs more real for those designing something of value for people.

A persona is essentially a fictional representation of users of your service, typically developed based on design research such as interviews, surveys and other insights. Most often, there are often multiple personas of service users if there are key differences in preferences, behaviours, needs and objectives. The idea is to prioritize your personas based on whatever criteria makes sense to you. This allows you to either figure out how you can provide solutions to serve your diverse users based on their characteristics or to focus on those that are the top priority.

Personas commonly have names, images and narratives that make them more real and easy to recall. Often in our work, we find ourselves in a deep discussion about features or capabilities, “Well, this certainly wouldn’t be of value to Susan because she primarily relies on mobile for anything online.” Personas are almost a means to vet future state journeys based on what you know about people from your research and how to best make an impact.

So take the time to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research to paint a clear picture of the people who will use your service. Creating personas is both a mix of science and art, so be ready to get creative. Print and hang those personas in your meeting rooms or office to remind you of the emotions and successes that will make your experience stand out. Remember we’re designing for people and personas are a great way to keep that top of mind.