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Persona Research Persona Thinking Personas

Theory of Personas: What Has Been Written About the Psychological Relationship Between Personas and Their Users?

In this blog post, the APG team and Kathleen Guan join to summarize some key aspects in the theory of “why personas work,” grounded in notions from social psychology. Enjoy reading!

Introduction to Theory of Personas

How do people form a connection with personas? What information plays a role? When does connecting take place? When not? These are some of the questions that the theory of personas deals with — essentially, the theory of personas explains why personas work.

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Persona Thinking Personas

Connected Personas: Primary, Secondary, Served, and Anti-Personas

Often, people think of personas as a one-layered concept. Meaning, there is only one set of personas they consider. This set is typically the current customers (e.g., most loyal or most valuable) or potential customers (e.g., those currently served by the competitors).

However, an interesting alternative is to consider personas in a connected way. Meaning, there are many persona sets that are inter-related.

  • Primary personas = these are the main targets of decision-making, i.e., the customers or users of a product. For example, the highest-paying customers.
  • Secondary personas = these are personas that have additional needs for which you can adjust the product or service, without harming the experience of the primary personas. For example, visually impaired users (e.g., you can increase the font size without it affecting negatively the user experience of primary users — many accessibility best practices fall into this category).
  • Served personas = these are personas that are not customers or users of your company, but are affected by the use of the product. For example, say your personas describe receptionists at a hotel. Served personas would be the customers of the receptionists. Essentially, the clients of your client.
  • Anti-personas = these are users or customers that are not the users of the product or services of your company, and are not directly affected by the product either. For example, a hotel cleaner would most likely not be affected by the work of the receptionist directly. Sometimes, thinking of who the persona is not helps flesh out the parts that make the persona unique.

In conclusion, prioritization is needed to focus on one persona set at a time. Simultaneously, it is important to aknowledge that other persona sets also exist. To visually represent different persona sets and their connections (especially between primary, secondary, and served personas), one can create a persona map, which a diagram that shows the connections of the different persona sets.