Create User Personas without Data

Presentation Abstract

Understanding your users is crucial for product and content design. But what do you do if you can’t obtain data about your users? Maybe you’re writing for a brand new product that doesn’t have users yet. Perhaps your project was assigned on short notice, leaving no time to collect user data.

When user data isn’t available, we create ad hoc personas to represent our users. Personas are descriptions of characters imbued with the traits of users, based on data gathered through field interviews. Ad hoc personas are based on ideas rather than data. They are synthesized from incomplete information — essentially educated guesses. Each member of the team has images of who the users are. The key is to have them all picture the same set of users.

We started with a video by Tamara Adlin called “The Power of Ad Hoc Personas” and adapted her yellow sticky exercise to produce ad hoc personas across globally distributed teams. We have successfully used this procedure for several products, refining it with each iteration. The resulting ad hoc personas are currently used by teams across a product family.

What can attendees expect to learn?

This presentation will venture through the exercise that our tech content team adapted to pull the sundry personas from the minds of stakeholders and replace them with personas that are our likely users.

The stakeholders come from different regions of the country and even the world. Yet, without any travel, they come together to write “want/need” statements, arrange virtual yellow sticky notes into groups, find patterns in the groupings, and create new ad hoc personas. They have fun doing it, and so do we!

We will look at how our team refined the procedure with each iteration to obtain more useful results, as well as ideas we have for additional refinements.

Meet the Presenter

lynncheslerLynn Chesler is a content developer and team lead at ARRIS, where she has been writing software documentation and working on special projects for more than eight years. She facilitated her first ad hoc personas exercise at ARRIS two years ago. Lynn has been a technical writer for seventeen years. She moved to technical writing from the Legal profession, where she argued in court and honed her writing skills.



⇐Return to Agenda