What is a persona?

A persona is a character sketch to get to know the “target audiences” that will be using the website or application that is being designed. They are the entry point of a process and a building block for the scenarios and the design. Once developed, this knowledge enables us to understand the persona’s wants and needs and how it intersects with the organizations goals and objectives. The value of personas is that they describe “real users” and not general market segments. They are a good tool for the team to envision the various users (primary, secondary, tertiary) and their key behaviours, attributes, and motivations when using the organization’s site or application. They are usually written in a narrative style, and although they are written about a single person they encompass research and interviews of several people who represent that type of audience group. In some cases, once the team moves into development mode, the personas with the image, characteristics, narrative, scenarios and features/functions, are taped up on the walls. They are placed on the walls for the development team to continually review the various personas and to build out the features and functions that address their wants and needs.

What do personas do?

  • They provide key inputs for building interactions that support business-critical user goals.
  • They act as the types of users of a site or application that represent the needs of larger user groups.
  • They help guide decisions about functionality and design.
  • They allow teams to cut through confusion by bringing various users to life.

There are three requirements for effective personas (Forrester 2007):

Based on ethnographic research

  • interviews and observation
  • conducted with representative users
  • can reveal goals, attitudes, and behaviors

Developed into archetypes that represent users’ key behaviours

  • When real users’ goals, attitudes, and behaviors are embodied in a vivid description of a single “person” with a name and face, designers and stakeholders can get to know their target users — and make decisions that support their needs.

 Used consistently throughout the design process

  • To ensure that personas get used, project teams must inform stakeholders about persona benefits and create an explicit plan for integrating personas into design and decision-making processes

What is the ROI of personas

According to Forrester research the persona development budget can be as much 20% of the overall redesign budget. For some organizations this is too high of a price to pay and risk designing without the proper understanding of their users. This can lead to drop rates, abandonment, brand disillusionment etc. However their can be a return of investment if the personas are created properly. By creating personas the design of the site/application will be more aligned with the audience wants and needs reducing redesign and redevelopment costs. Things like return visits, task completion, brand loyalty, and fewer service calls to the call centre is a return of investment for the organization.

How to sell personas correctly

  • create an offering page describing what they are,  how they are used and the process around creating them
  • provide samples as case studies to show the success and why they are of value
  • create a cheat sheet for those doing the estimates to ensure the approach, process, and estimates are consistent and they are estimated correctly
  • put an expiry date on them as technology changes rapidly and they will need to be revisited within a period of time


Dorsey, M. (2007, July 19). Forrester Research : Research : Best And Worst Of Personas, 2007. Retrieved from

Drego, V. L., & Dorsey, M. (2010, August 3). Forrester Research : Research : Best And Worst Of Personas, 2007. Retrieved from

Four Steps toward Creative Thinking by Michael Michalko ……………5, 6, 7, 8 – why stop at four?

What is creativity?

Creativity isn’t something that is easy to pinpoint. Some people seem to be more creative than others. Creativity can be developed over time, and it can lead to something that changes the world, or it can happen on a much smaller scale. In Michalko’s paper he references the Sony Walkman as an example of creativity that changed the world. He describes the discovery of this as a “modification to an idea” that already existed.  Sony had tried to develop a recording playback machine, but their failed attempt at the recording function shelved the project. The chairman took the shelved product and combined it with their lightweight headphones making it into something else. The Walkman was created and changed the future of how people listen to music.

Not every creation changes the world, and in fact most don’t. However, the impetus to create is something that we as human beings are compelled to do. In his paper, Michalko discusses systems that can be used for creativity. Creative people develop systems, but can also use these systems as crutches. Just as patterns help us simplify complex things, they can also hinder our ability to be creative. Allowing ourselves to step outside of our expertise is another system that can help us with creativity, because sometimes too much knowledge can be restricting.

Do systems for creativity work? They can, but need to be changed on a regular basis. The same formula doesn’t fit all problems.

In my design work, creativity is solving a problem in a 2 dimensional space, which aligns with our clients’ business objectives and meets the needs of their customers, where the human benefits are more visible than the technology. It is solving an organization’s problem with methodologies and tools. Although we do this for many customers, the formula of what we do and how we do it changes for each customer.

In my art, creativity is looking at things in different ways by trying to capture a moment in time, or sensitivity about a particular thing. The way I achieve this is by trying different systems of thinking and doing, to get different results.

There are many discussions about creativity and what it is and what it is not. Creativity is in everything we do, from cooking, to managing money, we use it often in our every day tasks. Interestingly, many people don’t consider themselves creative.

In this brief paper, Michalko describes different systems to approaching creativity. He considers not thinking, reversing old ideas, perception expansion and getting crazy as steps in helping with creative thinking.

Not thinking: We typically think in structured ways, we categorize from our previous experiences. Our expertise can hinder our ability to be creative. If we try to forget what we know, it can help us be more creative.

Reversing old ideas: Common assumptions can stifle creativity, reversing these to change your perspective can bring forth new fresh ideas.

Perception expansion: Expanding the problem by making it less defined can change your perception of the problem. This will allow you to explore more possibilities and not be confined within a narrow space.

Getting crazy: Exploring the ridiculous, absurd or the preposterous may help. Word rhymes, creating double meanings, creating a song, or as Greg says making the strange familiar and the familiar strange, can fuel your creativity.

Having now been involved in a futures course and gaining an understanding of futures thinking, the creative thinking systems would compliment futures thinking. Some of the above can definitely help expand creative and futures thinking. Below are other ways to think about creativity with methods and tools to change how you think alone or in a group.

Other ideas to help with creativity:

  • Move to an environment with creative stimulation
  • Be open to all ideas initially, then hone in on the best ones
  • Try having a meeting standing up
  • Enhance your environment
  • Try moving your meeting to a place where you haven’t met before
  • Within a group setting, use stickies to quickly brainstorm ideas
  • Many minds make for more ideas, involve others as much as possible

A couple of creativity tools:

Oblique Strategies, Systems for Creativity – Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

This is a deck of cards that offers thoughts to encourage lateral thinking and helps creative blocks.

Creative Whack Pack – Roger Von Oech

This is a deck of cards that encourages a fresh perspective by “whacking” you out of your same thought patterns.


Michalko, , M. (2000). Four Steps to Creative Thinking. The Futurist Date34(3).