What information goes into a persona

Use all the categories of information you gathered:

• key phrases or quotes

• experience, expertise

• technology

• social and cultural environments

"The web is a tool to get things done. Fast."

"If it doesn't work right, I move on. I don't have time to figure it out."

Typical web tasks:

• check sports sites

• arrange travel

• buy things for their weekend house in Connecticut

• check out health information after seeing the doctor

When it's time to renew his AARP membership, he'll try it online this year and save himself the paperwork - if it's easy to do.

"I love getting pictures of the grandkids in email, but I don't understand how the kids make that happen."

"My son, Jerry, showed me how to print out the pictures. I always follow just what he said to do."

Typical web tasks:

• find health information for herself and Doug and sometimes for friends

• get information for travel -she hasn't yet actually bought online, even though the kids do it all the time and say it's very safe

Edith didn't even know there was an AARP web site until she saw something about it in the AARP magazine. The magazine said there was more travel information on the web site, and Edith likes to plan trips that include visiting grandchildren and also doing some sightseeing.


• retired restaurant owner

• married almost 50 years to Doug

• limited income

• four children, ten grandchildren

Edith and Doug get by on Social Security and what they got when they sold the restaurant.

They put down a lot of cash for their small retirement house to keep the payments low.

Edith and Doug are enjoying retirement. They like the slow pace (especially after all those hectic years in the restaurant). They like the sunshine and the social life.

Edith is a cautious web user.

She checks her email regularly because the children are so busy that they don't come to visit or call as often as she would like - but they do send email.

Edith uses hearing aids and glasses. She took off the glasses for the picture, but she needs them to read or look at the computer. She has slight arthritis in her hands, so sometimes using the mouse is a problem.

Figure 2-2 Edith represents the older (but not oldest), retired part of AARP's audience. AARP members range from 50 to 100+. Used with permission. www.aarp.org

You may want to put the information in a different order. We usually start with demographics so that the persona has a specific age, family status, education, job, interests, income level, and so forth.

Also, we add

The picture and name are critical parts of a persona description. They make a user profile into a persona.

You know you have a good picture and a good name when they resonate with your web team. And that really happens: I was helping a team develop personas for a particular user group. They had all met with several people in the user group, although I had not. I had brought about 20 pictures with me of people of different gender, age, ethnicity, emotion in their faces, and so on. As soon as I spread out the pictures, they pounced on one. "That's her!" they said. And they knew her "name," too.

Be sure to select a name and picture that make the team respect the persona. Funny or cute names are signs of disrespect. You must have good conversations with your personas to write web content that will make good conversations with your actual web users.

You can buy or license stock photography, but many teams find that casual, personal photos are better than photos of models. Don't use a picture of someone the team knows. They'll find it too hard to talk about "Jack" if they know it's really a picture of Lisa's brother Mike. But photos of friends or family that the team doesn't know often work well. Just be sure to have the person's permission to use the photo.

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