How to Understand Your Users with Personas

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Personas are a powerful tool for helping you to better understand the needs of your users. In this comic, drawn exclusively for Think Vitamin, you’ll learn more about Personas and how they’ll revolutionize the way you design and build web sites.

Come hear Dan Cederholm, Jason Santa Maria, Joshua Davis, Bill Buxton, Daniel Burka, Elliot Jay Stocks and more speak at The Future of Web Design NYC on Nov 16 – 17th.

Personas Comic

More about Personas

Putting Personas Under the Microscope

The Origin of Personas

Getting from Research to Personas: Harnessing the Power of Data

Personas and Goal-Directed Design: An Interview with Kim Goodwin

What’s your customer’s persona?

More from Indi Young:

Book: Mental Models

Look at it Another Way

More comics from Brad Colbow:

Misunderstanding Markup

Alignment in design:

The Brads, a weekly web comic

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55 comments on “How to Understand Your Users with Personas

  1. Brad, you’ve done it again. You whimsical style can bring even the dullest (yet important) topics to life. I am really enjoying this new venture you’re taking. And it’s so awesome you are able to be featured on the Carsonified blog. A big #WOOT is in order here.

  2. Awesome! You could make some seriously effective training cartoons. Technical topics are more easily understood when presented this way. (at least for me)
    Keep up the great work!

  3. I love the cauldron full of magic potion–I think that explains how most processes work are large organizations, right? Brad did a great job with the subtle hinting …

  4. just stumbled upon this content and agree with the folks above – love the easy to digest but full of goodness article. The cartoon really held my interest my better than conventional text. Look forward to reading more in future.

  5. Great stuff. I’ve used personas plenty of times, both for marketing campaigns and for planning content for websites with multiple audiences. They can be really useful, but also flexible in the sense that there’s no one approach. Plus, a decent set of personas make explaining your ideas to clients much easier.

  6. Brad – This is one of the freshest ways to look to the human element of web design that I’ve seen. It turns theory and research into an approach that’s accessable and fun! Thanks!

    • Personas for “role playing” during usability testing is my graduate thesis topic in a nutshell. So far I’ve been able to turn up very little info on the idea. Nielsen seems to think it’s a terrible idea due to the loss of authentic user experience.

      While I respect Nielsen, his opinion isn’t the same as data.

      There’s a paper that looks at data from one of the Comparative Usability Evaluation studies (#4 I think) and they found that one team out performs expectations based on variables such as recruiting methodology, number of participants, and task coverage.

      There were 2 big differences in how this team operated. 1. They took a laptop out and about in a bit of a guerrilla style rather than in a lab. 2. Participants were given a persona and a scenario to play out during their test.

      So maybe one of those elements is responsible for the increased performance. Or maybe the combination of the 2. Or maybe it’s a fluke. But it seemed like an easy enough thesis to test so I took it as my research topic. :)

      If anyone has further data on the topic, add my interest to Mauricio’s and share it here please.

  7. Wondering if anyone on this thread has experience proving the ROI on persona development? How do you typically go about communicating ROI benefits within a persona pitch and then measure once the personas have been developed?

  8. As the above commenters said, I really like this as a teaching method. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes – did anyone see _why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby? Similar concepts (used comics to teach the Ruby programming language) but not quite as succesful IMO – the comics didn’t really tie in to the material.

    This is good though. Brad, I’ve just posted your website to , hopefully it’ll give you a traffic boost 😉

  9. I wanted to buy Mental Models last week, but Amazon said it was out of print. Now I’ve had an excuse to dig into it further and I see how Rosenfeld’s business model is essentially print on demand (correct me if I’m wrong) and this confuses Amazon when it comes to ideas such as “out of print”. Glad to be able to put this back on my wish list.

    The comic is awesome too, btw. :)

    • Hi Derek, Amazon is absolutely broken, but being (essentially) a monopoly means never having to say you’re sorry.

      The book is most definitely in print, not POD (but a “real” book, with sewn bindings, four color interiors, and other great features), and can be purchased along with a digital copy here:

      Or, if you must, from or, though you’d make my day if you bought it directly from us.


  10. Pretty fantastic, Brad. :) Our little studio just went through the rigors of coming up with and developing backgrounds on several personas for a major northwest client. (We posted about our experience here

    To be honest, it was a lot of fun and something I think the whole team looks forward to doing again. It was interesting that, based on a series of data results, patterns emerged that we were able to build into people that seemed wholly authentic. Looking back on it now, it’s still hard to believe that these people we made don’t actually exist. I think this is the reason persona use is increasing. They’re easy customers to target.

    But seriously, we need more ponies on this site. Thanks.

  11. Great illustration :)

    ‘Pony’ has been adopted at our work as the word meaning:

    “Marketing (or someone else who doesn’t understand web) has come up with a stupid idea for the website. They think it’s a brilliant idea, but it’s crap (probably an idea from before the dot-com bubble burst)”

  12. Because of your honesty, if I was looking to buy the book, I would buy it from you (Or seriously consider it). Just thought i’d let you know.