A colleague once developed personas for me as part of a large digital experience project. The personas included headshots of perfectly diverse individuals along with quotes, personality traits, backstories, aspirations, and how our client’s new website would help them achieve their dreams.

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I edited the personas down to lists of user tasks. There was too much “story,” and the actionable information was obscured.

Despite UX practitioners debating the “death of the persona” and the “stereotypization” of the users we’re supposedly championing, this sort of “storybook persona” remains alive and well.

 

UX people

 

It’s time for a new approach.

Let’s move away from inventing differences and focus instead on codifying the commonalities that unite constituents.

The sentiments, drivers, and impediments common to all constituents of a particular product or brand are where actionable information hides in plain sight.

In practice, this requires defining the edges of the constituent “sandbox.” For an HVAC brand, for instance, I might consider the degrees to which budget, control, comfort, and urgency play a role in decision-making for all prospects.

Once these elements are defined, creating a “persona” is a matter of plotting points on the various spectra.

For our hypothetical HVAC brand, this approach enables a budget-conscious / not-so-tech-savvy / happy-wearing-a-sweater-inside prospect, and a DIY / IOT-obsessed / creature-comforts prospect to easily co-exist within a single digital marketing strategy.

One can easily imagine how a thoughtfully-architected digital campaign could cater to both these personas in a cohesive manner.

This approach is flexible and actionable. People change over time, which is why rigid personas aren’t worth the effort. And in the end, our focus ought to be less on disparate generalizations and more on moving the needle on specific elements that motivate or impede consideration and conversion.

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