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Making Personas More Powerful: Details to Drive Strategic and Tactical Design (14 Sep 2004)
How can something that feels so right be so wrong? Personas ought to be one of the defining techniques in user-focused design. Lots of professionals create them, yet too often the personas end up being too vague to guide a productís focus. They often lack the detail to be useful in guiding low-level design trade-offs. And, as typically done, personas have been too narrowly focused. They often arenít helpful in identifying the information a user needs or creates. Nor do they have much to say about the sensory and emotional aspects of user experience-the sorts of factors that cause consumers to lust after products like Appleís iPod.

As a result, personas have unfortunately become more of a check-off item than a useful tool, and many personas get put on the shelf once they are written. So how did we get here?

Alan Cooper popularized personas as a valuable design tool, but many people who adopted them failed to take into account the context of Cooperís practice, which had fairly specific needs. Cooperís company most often dealt with enterprise clients who hadnít yet bought into the value of user experience. As a consultant, he had a strong need to persuade internal development teams to pay attention to users, so, not surprisingly, he emphasized both the narrative and empathy-building aspects of personas
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