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Proto persona

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A proto persona is like a drawing made by a small child. It does not contain many details, but the essentials: a presentation of a particular person or object.

And it does it with little effort.

Nobody hires a professional painter without a sufficient budget in their pocket, but sometimes simple kids' drawings are pleasing enough.

To some extent, this applies to digital product design.

To better understand what a proto persona is, let us recall the definition of a persona. A persona is a representation of a user. Its preparation requires a lot of effort, research, and statistical and analytical data.

A persona contains detailed and verified information (for example, obtained through user interviews or usability tests). This information ranges from demographic data, the needs and goals related to the product, to the age or interests of users. Creating personas usually involves the use of various research methods.

The collected information enables us to know our users, for example, their pain points, and this, in turn, allows us to introduce changes in the project understood as a product.

Let us refer to a simple example from outside the IT industry. If, following the research, we learn that most customers of our grocery store care about animal welfare, we will be more likely to offer them organic eggs than caged ones.

Especially when we find out that our customers' earnings correspond to regular purchases of more expensive eggs, we will use the knowledge acquired to respond to customer needs and boost sales. A persona provides the same.

But what if we have no funds or time to prepare a persona? Or we assume that we do not need a very precise customer profile?

Then, a proto persona is handy, which we can prepare without high costs and without extensive user research, user testing, or detailed information about user behavior.

An ad hoc persona, a proto persona helps to make sure that our team members are on the same page regarding the perception of target users. Although it does not represent real users perfectly, it may be sufficient depending on our goals.

Types of personas

Although in this article we will focus on creating a proto persona specifically, we should at least mention that according to the Nielsen Norman Group, there are three ways that we can approach the creation of personas.

These ways include the following:

  • Proto personas - as mentioned, they allow us to gain a quick understanding of our users
  • Qualitative personas - these are created based on qualitative research
  • Statistical personas - here, qualitative research is used as a base for a survey to obtain a large sample size that will lead to the creation of personas based on statistical analysis.

Proto persona: preparation process

I. We explain the concept

Let's gather the people from the executive team and tell them that their task will be to look at our company through our customer's eyes. We explain that proto personas will help in this. However, it should be emphasized that they are not scientific customer archetypes (personas), although they will constitute an important reference point for the planning of future operations strategy.

II. We create proto personas

It is enough to gather 12 people responsible for a specific product in one room and then give them about 15 minutes to prepare simplified, ad hoc personas, or proto personas, individually or in groups.

We take a piece of paper and draw just a few columns because the proto persona is all about lean management.

It is important that each column lists (in points) the information about demography as well as the user needs and goals in reference to the project. Let's make customer visualization easier by adding a simple drawing.

Proto persona what it is

III. Time for a presentation

Next, each team member presents the result of their work before the rest of the participants; they read the description of their proto personas aloud and place the papers on a board.

This is important because it enables us to receive feedback from the team about the actual user features. We introduce necessary corrections on an ongoing basis.

IV. Scope

The next task will be to assign each proto persona to five different scopes, e.g., the number of years with a product or company. We put the scopes on a whiteboard.

V. Voting and assigning

Next, the group proceeds to vote for proto personas. For example, you can vote on a 1 to 5 scale using small cards. However, if discussion is needed, keep it to a minimum.

The moderator's task is to assign each proto persona to a particular group based on its scope. The aim is to have no more than 3-5 profiles left within a few days.

VI. We combine and design personas

The following day, it's good to combine proto personas. We send them in advance to the executive team so that it is ready for the meeting.

During the meeting, we discuss the created "characters", not only in reference to real people but also to customers.

We review each proto persona and introduce changes on an ongoing basis. This continues until everyone agrees that we finally have a set of representative proto personas.

The next step is the design phase. It would be good if the team members opted for brainstorming, individual drawing, and sharing opinions.

In this way, we come to the voting for the best design ideas, enabling us to start the prototyping process.

How to summarize the collected information?

In the article "UX: Creating Proto-Person," we can read that once we gather enough information from our little workshop, we can put it together in the form of proto persona cards.

These cards should contain some basic pieces of information such as name, biography, demographic information, and attribute scale.

Thanks to this method, we obtain a convenient tool that includes all the relevant information and assists us in progressing the design process.

Persona vs. Proto persona

Finally, let's take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of creating a persona or a proto persona.

What we gain by employing a persona:

  • A better understanding of our audience
  • The human image of our user
  • How our customers use our product
  • A reference point for design.

What we gain by employing a proto persona:

  • The entire team will perceive the customer in a similar way
  • The design will be user-oriented
  • The team members will be more focused on the audience's needs.

The cons of creating personas:

  • A general perception of the target audience that may lack some crucial details
  • It is a time-consuming process, especially when it comes to creating detailed personas
  • Difficulty in selecting data that is the most relevant for creating a persona.

See also our article on UX Audit.

Do you want to create or improve your product?

How you like that:
Journal / Redaktor
Author: Radek
UX Writer and researcher by education + experience. Collects The Story's knowledge and shares it on the Journal.
Reviewer: Dymitr Romanowski

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