Users, customers, and the personas that define them

Alan Cooper talked yesterday about users and customers. Years ago when a company would release a piece of software, the user was the customer. Today with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, the user is becoming separated more and more from the customer. You might argue that the advertiser is the real customer now and that the user is actually the product being sold.

The pervasive idea today is that the “customer is always right.” However, this concept needs to now shift to users. Mr. Cooper said that you can keep the customer happy—for awhile. But if you keep your users happy, it keeps the customer happy. Ultimately, the best thing for the new customer (or advertiser) is a happy user base.

Developing personas

The way Mr. Cooper developed Personas was to find one person and make them ecstatically happy. He reasoned that assuming this person was not a huge outlier, they represented a group of people. This one person became a persona.

So what is the way forward? How do you make that one person ecstatically happy? It has to start from some type of research. Perhaps you know someone who is in your target audience. Maybe you use a tool like Ethnio to apprehend an user in the middle of what they’re doing. Or, like Nate Bolt from Designing for Context, you could use several tools to get at that one person. Any of these will give you a better informed persona, resulting in something more useful.

I used to have a little bit of trouble using the persona to develop the product. I had a picture of who a person was, but didn’t know how to turn that into features. The answer, of course, is to make that persona ecstatically happy. How can you build your website or webapp in such a way that it solves some of their deeper needs? What would make them smile?

What about you? How have you developed personas or worked to make people happy through what you made?

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