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Personas Come of Age

January 24, 2008
at 12:00 pm PST

It’s interesting to see something from the inner depths of the user-centered design world suddenly exploding into the mass media. This has happened recently with personas.

Personas are a tool we use at Cisco in designing products and web sites — a way of profiling a “prototypical” user (that might be you!) based on our interviews and research.

For instance, one of our personas (at right) is named “Millie” and she’s a small business owner who juggles appointments, phones, deals, and employee assignments. Sometimes we use real photos; sometimes we use figurines or illustrated comic figures to represent our personas. But they’re always accompanied by a lot of background information to help us understand different types of visitors to our web sites. And they are always based on what we learn from visits or interviews with real customers.This last week I’ve seen in-your-face instances of personas used in mass media, and I think it’s an indication that companies (and even ad agencies) are becoming more oriented to their users.The first instance was a campaign running on Amazon.com around tax preparation, using characters from the NBC’s The Office to help you match yourself with the right taxpayer “persona:”PersonaAmazon1.jpgThe neat thing is, they carried the metaphor one step further to show a mini-persona about each character. So, if you identify with Jim (the procratinator) you got this special page explaining various products that are right for you (OK, it’s the same products in each case, but with a different leadin):PersonaAmazon2.jpgThe other interesting campaign running is from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, where they invite you to “discover your Vegas persona,” as if this is a common term known to the general public:PersonaVegas.jpgThey’re even using the tagline “discover your Vegas persona” on network televisions ads. If that’s not a sign that personas are coming of age, I don’t know what is!P.S. A great book on personas is The Persona Lifecycle by Tamara Adlin and John Pruitt.Technorati Tags:

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