Personas are a technique for enhanced understanding of users and customers to improve the user-centered design of systems and products. Their creation can be categorized using three persona creation methodologies: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods.
In this post, we describe the Mixed Methods method and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this methodology for persona development.
Mixed Methods persona creation – When the QUAL approach is integrated with the QUANT approach, the resulting cast of personas can often capture more varied and representative representations of user behaviors (the added value of quantitative methodology) and better construe the complexities of any condition or user group (qualitative added value) for a user population. Therefore, the MIXED approach has numerous strengths that are important to note:
- COMPLETENESS: Adding insights (either numeric or qualitative) that could be missed depending on a single approach.
- DIVERSITY: To clarify underlying meaning and user context, qualitative data (narratives) can be combined with quantitative data (numbers), resulting in socially meaningful user representations.
- FLEXIBILITY: Produce more comprehensive knowledge essential for informing actionable insights in a specific use case.
- RANGE: Allows for a broader and more thorough portrayal of the variety of information due to a variety of data collection or analysis means; not relying on methodological or dataset restrictions about a single methodological fraction.
- RESILIENT: Integrates the strengths of both quantitative and qualitative methods in a productive manner.
- SUPPORT: Better positioned profiles provide evidence of better representing users via merging findings from different individuals/mechanisms/processes, such as combining human- and algorithm-generated user analysis.
- TESTABLE: Profile information can be used to both produce and assess hypotheses in a progressive manner that utilizes qualitative sensemaking and quantitative verification.
The MIXED approach can be nuanced to implement in practice, including the noted difference depending on if one starts with qualitative data and integrates quantitative data or vice versa. Therefore, the MIXED approach also does possess limitations, including:
- EFFORT: Costly and time-consuming compared with the other two methods of persona creation, as possible duplicates and the need to de-duplicate content during data collection and analysis are increased.
- IMPLEMENTATION: Possibly challenging to implement by a single persona development team, especially when the team lacks technical or qualitative analysis skills, time, budget, or data collection resources.
- INTEGRATION: Possible problems when interpreting conflicting results into a coherent profile due to the mixture of diverse data collection sources, integration techniques, and analysis methods; the findings may be isolated and not “sit well” within the whole.
- PREPARATION: Requires a thorough understanding of various methodologies and an understanding of how to integrate them to create cohesive personas, for which there are no definitive guidelines.
For more about persona creation, read:
Jansen, B. J., Jung, S. G., Nielsen, L., Guan, K., & Salminen, J. (2022). Strengths and Weaknesses of Three Common Approaches for the Creation of Personas: Strategies and Opportunities for Practical Employment. Pacific Asia Journal of the Association for Information Systems. 4(3), Article 1.