Thursday, November 20, 2008

Multiple instances of one persona?

A colleague has run into an interesting problem during the development of some personas... er, personae. They have a situation where there are common scenarios that require collaboration between different people that all have the same job description/role/tasks/responsibilities. In other words, normally it would be a no-brainer that these different people could be represented easily with a single persona because there aren't any significant differences between them that would merit creating an entirely new persona.

But they work together. If you create a single persona (say, "Elvis"), how do you write the scenario to describe the collaboration ("Elvis sends an instant message to Elvis to check on progress...")?

But if we create 2 personas that are basically identical except for the name, then it doubles the amount of reading that someone would need to do to understand the personas. And there will inevitably be confusion on the part of the consumers ("Hey, Elvis and Jerry Lee look almost the same... why did I have to read both of these damn things?").

Oddly, I don't recall seeing any best practices on how to handle this situation, even though I suspect it's a common one. If anyone has any pointers or advice, I'd appreciate it.


Anonymous said...

Couple of ways to handle this:

1. Just give them numbers. Elvis1, Elvis2, etc. Easy way to make clear they're different instances of the same persona.

2. Don't use personas. Not all the way. Define the characteristics shared by the role and offer that instead of formal personas. Describe the common characteristics of Project manager, Engineer, rock star, whatever the roles are, and offer that as your background research.

It shouldn't be that confusing to describe a situation where ten rock stars are all in a meeting together. It happens all the time.

- Scott Berkun

Brian Pirie said...

Another option: Give each of them different names, but make it clear they're all the same persona. One thing that could help, although it might feel a little awkward at first, is to give all the instances of the same persona names that start with the same level.

For example, when you first introduce the persona, you could label them something like this:

Name: Elvis
Other people like him: Elaine, Edward, Evan

Terry Bleizeffer said...

Scott - Your first suggestion is obviously silly... there is only ONE Elvis, man. "Elvis2"? Heresy!

Unfortunately, for political reasons, not doing personas is not a viable option. I think of personas the way I think of my pitching wedge - it's a really handy club to have in my bag, but it's not the right club for every shot. Unfortunately our caddie thinks otherwise.

Brian - That's a good idea. We're using alliteration anyway based on job descriptions (the Administrator's name is Adam, for example), so extending that here might be useful.

Thanks for the thoughts, guys.