Studies in human-computer interaction recommend creating fewer than ten personas based on stakeholders’ limitations to cognitively process and use personas.
However, no existing studies offer empirical support for having fewer rather than more personas. Investigating this matter, thirty-seven participants interacted with five and fifteen personas using an interactive persona system, choosing one persona to design for.
In research led by Joni Salminen, results from eye-tracking and survey data suggest that when using interactive persona systems, the number of personas can be increased from the conventionally suggested ‘less than ten’, without significant negative effects on user perceptions or task performance, and with the positive effects of increasing engagement with the personas, having a more diverse representation of the end-user population, as well as users accessing personas from more varied demographic groups for a design task.
Using the interactive persona system, users adjusted their information processing style by spending less time on each persona when presented with fifteen personas, while still absorbing a similar amount of information than with five personas, implying that more efficient information processing strategies are applied with more personas.
The results highlight the importance of designing interactive persona systems to support users’ browsing of more personas.
Salminen, J., Jung, S.G., Nielsen, L., Şengün, S., and Jansen, B. J. (2002) How does varying the number of personas affect user perceptions and behavior? Challenging the ‘small personas’ hypothesis!. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 168, 102915.