What are they?

Personas for Real are part of the Empathize stage in the design process. Unlike the typical User Personas, they are not a fictional representation of your ideal user created by the insights gathered from both qualitative and quantitative research. Instead, they provide an accurate representation of your users and stakeholders as a Persona for Real is created for each individual person you interview. Not only do Personas for Real provide an accurate representation of your interviewees, they also feel real when placed in your Miro board.

How to start?

Start with a picture. You know the picture you selected is a great one if it reminds you of the interview and of the personality of your interviewee. Provide the real name of your interviewee as well as a few details, the details that most likely made you reach out to that person such as their education or occupation. Next, you must provide some basic demographic info, this will eventually give you a better understanding of which groups of people you have interviewed and who you still need to reach out to.

My team and I were working on a project dealing with sustainability and education. We realized that Teju’s experience with cultural and environmental equity would be key to our understanding of the problem. Creating a Persona for Real for Teju helped us connect her story and real-life experiences to the problem we were tying to identify.

What do I do with my insights?

You probably have a bunch of insights from your interview and wish to organize them. Many times those insights might not relate to your problem space, but nothing keeps you from including them in your typical User Persona. Unfortunately, not understanding the connection of your insights to your problem space can lead to a lot of confusion. It’s wise to realize that before the insights, came a conversation, so you should first identify how your interviewee is connected to your problem space. In this section, you might expand on your reasons for reaching out to this individual, what goals you had for the interview, and how your interviewee’s responses align with those goals.

This section proved to be the most difficult for our team, but possibly the most important as it helped us identify the weight of individual insights and enabled us to determine who we should interview next. For example, we were trying to identify the impact of getting a college degree and what it meant in the field of sustainability, so a quote like the one below adds a lot of value to Teju’s story while helping us define the problem space:

“I am able to do the work that I do because I have an institutional degree”

Next, reflect on your interviewee’s life stories and experiences, as well as their goals and how they connect to your problem space. There is a chance that your interviewee could be more passionate about things they do outside of work, or their role might not fully define what they do or provide a clear indication of what they want to do.

My team struggled to find a connection between our problem space and the goals of some of our interviewees, and that’s completely fine! Some sections in the Personas for Real might be more difficult to fill out than others depending on the interview, but all will help you better align your insights with your problem space.

Finally, what are some obstacles your interviewee is facing? Here is where your insights might seem more actionable. There is nothing to solve for if there are no pain points, so what are those pain points and how do they relate to your problem space? Once you reach this section, you will realize that connecting everything to the problem space might not feel as much of a struggle like it did in the beginning.

Final Thoughts

Personas for Real provide a quick, accurate, and visually engaging representation of how your interviewees and their responses relate to your problem space. It is very likely that not everyone in your team will be available for every single interview, so how can everyone stay on track? Reading the interview transcript, interview notes, or hearing/watching the recording might not seem like an efficient way to do so. This makes Personas for Real a great design tool to use during debriefing sessions with your team to fully align on the main takeaways from your interviews.