Why personas?

I have heard this question so many times. Why personas and what real value do the bring. The short answer I have is:

“Let’s say you are asked to design a car. So many possibilities. Now, let’s say you are asked to design a car for James Bond or Mr Bean. How much easier your task becomes now?”

When I joined TalkTalk we had a set of personas created by the Marketing team. They were called TalkTalk towns and were heavily focused on how to deliver Marketing messages.

There are many schools of thought regarding personas, personally, I believe it is still one of the most useful tools for designers. Personas created well, help guiding design, product and marketing choices. Personas help us create relevant products, be humble and emphatic and make right choices.

What to consider

  • Personas must be defined and work across all teams.
  • It is important to understand that the basic personas should remain the same, while specific information about each persona should be tailored for the needs of every team.
  • Persona descriptions must be easy be easy to relate to.
  • Personas must be easy to remember and distinguish from each other
  • Persona’s data must be adjusted to serve the needs of each team.
  • Personas must be an everyday tool when making decisions about the product.

Where to get the data

  • Your Customer Support team – they deal with your customers every day
  • Your Business Intelligence team – they have the tracking data
  • User Research – if you have a team that does that, ask them to interview a mix of users, if not, do it yourself
  • Ethnographic studies – the best way to learn about your users is to observe them. At TalkTalk we had an opportunity to join installation engineers for this. In other companies  I used to go and observe users in their everyday life

There are many tools you can use to gather the data you need. Here is an example of the form I use to collect data from Customer Support team.

How and when to use personas

  • Make sure you have your personas in a simple digestible format that is easy to share with everyone
  • Print them as cards and distribute in every meeting room
  • Have a digital version to use in product presentations for decisions makers
  • Create posters and place them in heavy traffic areas such us lifts for example, where people can read and learn about them
  • Distribute and present them to all stakeholders


TalkTalk Personas

Here are the personas I created for TalkTalk. These are the size of a standard postcard, double side printed with General info on one side and data on the other side.