In The Inmates Are Running the Asylum (1998), Alan Cooper introduces the description of the so-called personas, an hypothetical archetype that still serves us as a powerful and inspiring tool to design products and services. As explain by Alan Cooper, “personas […] can take months or years to master” and some designers have developed the use and creation of personas to a high “degree of sophistication”. Accordingly, personas are widely accepted and used to focus, design and develop a successful idea. On the other hand, during the last 5 years, digital collaborative tools have become a popular standard among designers. This novelty has created a different scenario; many product are created for teams rather single users. As a result, I propose here to expand our view about personas in certain scenarios, product or services.

Here, I propose to expand our view about personas in certain scenarios, product or services.

From my recent experience as designer, I have realized that trying to focus our product to a single person could be quite puzzled. We all understand that this is a simplification that helps to better imagine and direct the creation of a product and service when moving forward into the design and development processes. However, I feel sometimes that creating one single could not be the right choice to understand our user. Taking into account more than one user neither solves the problem. This is because creating that persona does not encompass the whole picture of that person.

Sociology, Social Psychology of Groups and Sociobiology studies have deeply discussed the “hive mind” phenomenon. There is a body of knowledge that supports that, as social animals, human beings act under the social influence and create tight bonds of union and friendship with other individuals that, in turn, build singular unique dynamics within these groups. Most people (I would say almost everybody) live in society to some extent. This means that our decisions are driven within a social context. And this fact implies that many decisions take into account our social circle to some degree. Accordingly, sometimes I believe that we should look further when looking to our user.

In particular, this approach should be considered when the user takes part of our experience as part of a group of people. In these cases, the dynamic of our user works within the dynamic of a group; many motivations and frustrations are emergent properties of the system (the group) and they would not exist if considering the user as a single person. These dynamics create new emerging properties that are a central part of the systems theory.

Therefore, it is widely accepted that many cultural organizations and biological systems can not be understood from the study of individual components but from a unique complex entity. In this regard, we should consider the group as a whole complex entity when trying to understand our user. To go further, the group becomes the user persona in these situations.

The group becomes the user persona in some situations.

An proposal to a user persona of +1 : a family

Just to go in detail, let me explain three simple examples:

  1. Designing an amusement park (e.g Disney World) rarely means to design to a single user. Most people come to these places in family or large groups. In both cases, people agree to come together because the group have common objetives (e.g. to live and enjoy an shared experience with others) and suffer from a number of frustrations (e.g. to find a place to sit down all together).
  2. Designing a science exhibition (e.g. Natural History Museum of London) implies that a great percentage of the visitors are schoolchilds in big groups. Accordingly, when deciding to go to the museum, teachers consider pros and cons of the experience to their whole group of students and not to the particular needs and frustration of a single one.
  3. Designing a collaborative digital tool implies that a team as a whole is interacting in a complex dynamic way to pursue a common objetive (e.g. to improve productivity) and share a set of frustrations (e.g. not to manage effectively version control).

Sometimes, we must broaden our vision and think out of the box to consider a bigger and richer picture of our version of the user persona of one.

As UX designers, we must admit that this could be the case in some of our studies in order to embrace the real complexity with which our products/services have to deal. We must broaden our vision and think out of the box to consider a bigger and richer picture of our version of the user persona of one.

Taken to absurd

If you enjoyed this article, I will love to have a handful of applauses (50👏 would be awesome!). This will encourage me to keep writing. Any comments will be also appreciated to improve.

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