Measuring personas or persona sets?

Research has focused on measuring persona perceptions, i.e., what users think of personas they are shown.

These efforts can focus on individual personas, i.e., we show a persona or two to the user and ask their opinions about the persona’s usefulness, completeness, credibility, and so (see the Persona Perception Scale).

However, persona sets (i.e., groups of personas) are at least of equal importance. How do users assess a set of personas? Is the set diverse enough? Is the set credible? Does it conform to the user’s pre-existing beliefs about their customers? Does it provide something novel and surprising? Does the persona set, as a whole, contain new and valuable information? Do the personas in the set support decision making in customer-facing tasks?

These questions would be hard to answer if focusing on individual personas only.

Therefore, the measurement of personas should in many ways shift from individual personas to persona sets. However, this involves various challenges, at least the following:

  1. How to effectively communicate and present the personas to the user? (Showing more than five or so personas becomes difficult to manage if served via paper — interactive persona systems can help in this regard)
  2. How to dissect the impact of an individual persona to the whole? (i.e., which personas are valuable and which ones have problems?)
  3. How to control for the (un)even use of personas? (i.e., the personas are not viewed or used an equal amount of time; unequal effort and attention is given — does this matter?)

It appears that from a methodological point of view, showing personas instead of a persona results in loss of control and tractability. Yet, I believe it’s an important research path to pursue.

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