Getting into the minds of your users can be the difference between a good product and a great product that delivers everything the user could want. As user experience designers it is our role to ensure that the product we design gives just that a great user experience.
While we can draw on our background and make very good assumptions about what makes a good experience, unless we get out there, talk to people, listen to their vocabulary, observe how they work and ask questions how do we 100% know what we are designing is going to work? Its true that simply by using common design patterns we know that users will pick up on the familiarity of the UI and work with it. But by getting into the users head knowing who they are, what they do outside of work, what are their interests, background. By understanding this we can start to build tailored solutions.
Now these personas are also a great selling tool. When dealing with business areas, they know what they want and some are experienced in their respective fields, though all too often their view is very much internally focused. Focused on the end that is recieving the data not the end that is inputting the data and the contraints users are often working within.
We can get a good understanding of the business and what they need to achieve, through consultation with the end user and understanding them we can build products that have very high adoption rates and create a great user experience.
When forming a persona it is important to spend time to get to know each type of user. Who is the person that is using our system, who is this potential client, what have they been doing before they came to our system? What are their motives?
In my travels I have come across some great resources to assist in getting to understand the benefits of the persona. One great article that has stuck with me is “How to create personas your design team will believe in” by David Travis 3 August 2009. What I like about this is it really defines the process of creating a persona, and provides a 7 point checklist. I really recommend having a read.