Avoiding Bullshit Personas


A great session on how to, and why, strip the fluff out of online personas by Jill Christ of video tutorial site lynda.com and Stephanie Carter, UX Researcher at Bolt/Peters. True to their motto of removing the things that don’t matter from their personas even if they are true, they are staying away from using cutsie names or fluff like “Ashley – The Relationship Builder: She was born and raised outside boise, Idaho, and in 1992 she moved to the Bay Area with her brother. She’s now a full-time mom of 1-year old Cameron. Her husband Todd works as a blablabla…”
We’ve all seen, heard and sometimes written these personas.

Jill and Stephanie instead stuck with a very rigid process of using ethnographic research to uncover three things about their users:

  1. What situation are they in when they come to the site?
  2. What is their approach to finding what they are looking for?
  3. What is their underlying desire they want to satisfy by going to the site?

The approach led them to 5 very straight forward and easy-to-use personas for the developers of their video tutorial site:
The “I am a… and I want to expand on my skills”
The “I want to be a … and I need to learn the skills”
The “I can do… if you ask me to”
The “I’m not a … but I need to do…”
And the “I really like doing…”


So no fluff, nothing that can be interpreted differently by different people, but a clear focus on the things that actually influence the usage of their site. Sad for some of us strategists/planners who like to tell a bit of a story around our personas, but smart and very much – as their session title said – no bullshit.

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