The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Jo Szczepanska 'Is it time to refresh, repair or retire your personas?'

John Carter
December 20, 2022
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Jo Szczepanska 'Is it time to refresh, repair or retire your personas?'

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Episode shownotes

I caught up with Jo Szczepanska - a phenomenal design talent based out of Melbourne, Australia. Jo sent me an article that they wrote a while ago about persona’s, and it was so good that I thought we should do an episode to dig into it a little deeper. Jo’s one of my favourite people and designers and is a great brain, and heavily involved in the co-design space.

Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: To go the other way. I'd say that they are also a very convenient excuse to not actually do any research or talk to anybody in the real world because you have this document that gives you authority to make decisions on other people's behalf, and you've got it written there. This is what they're thinking, this is what they're saying.

[00:00:20] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: These are these demographics and you design based on your assumptions based on those.

[00:00:29] Gerry Scullion: Hello and welcome to this is h cd. My name is Jerry Scullion and I'm a designer. I'm an educator, and I'm the host of This is h cd based in the wonderful wintry city of Dublin, Ireland. Our goal here is to have conversations that inspire and help move the dial forward for organizations to become more human centered in their approach to solving complex business and societal problems.

[00:00:49] Gerry Scullion: Earlier today, I caught up at Joe Pin. A phenomenal design talent based outta Melbourne, Australia. And Joe sent me an article a while ago about personas, and it was so [00:01:00] good that I thought, you know, we should actually do an episode and dig a little bit deeper into this. In this episode, I play the role of devil's advocate and Joe's defending personas as well.

[00:01:09] Gerry Scullion: And Joe is one of my favorite people and designers and has such a great design brain and is heavily involved in the co-design space, and I know you're just gonna love it. Okay, we're gonna have a, a blog post that accompanies. So you'll be able to watch or read the article as you're listening to it as well, and hopefully find a lot of value in the episode.

[00:01:27] Gerry Scullion: Now, if you like, what we're doing at this is, Hey CD folks. You know what I'm gonna say next? Please help us out by leaving a review. It only takes a few minutes and leave a review or wherever you're listening to the podcast, whether that can Spotify, apple, or Google. It really helps the findability of the podcast and really goes some way to helping me out as.

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[00:02:03] Gerry Scullion: And literally all the money goes towards editing, hosting, and maintaining our website. It's a repository now for human-centered design goodness, with over 230. So hopefully if you'd like to see this as a TD continue, it'll be great if you could become a patron. It really helps us out. But let's jump into the episode.

[00:02:18] Gerry Scullion: Thanks Joe. Great to have you here. Today we're gonna be chatting a little bit more about personas. Uh,

[00:02:29] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: yes, personas. There's been lots

[00:02:31] Gerry Scullion: and lots of articles written about personas over the years. Like Alan Cooper, um, you know, really. Put meat on the bones when came to personas and their value and stuff. But today we're gonna probably dissect it a little bit further, um, and really understand their role.

[00:02:52] Gerry Scullion: And also could we potentially even say their future? Is that too big a task on, in, in a 35 minute podcast? I [00:03:00] probably, it's might be a stretch, maybe 36 minutes you might be covered. But maybe, maybe start off and, um, you know, people will be familiar with you from, uh, longtime Mercers. This is, um, you've been on the podcast before.

[00:03:14] Gerry Scullion: But maybe, maybe start off and, and tell us about your experience with using personas.

[00:03:20] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Definitely. So, I guess in many ways my experience with personas, um, has ranged all the way from inheriting ones. So going to a company and finding some, um, which is, uh, quite a realization. I've definitely made a few personas in my time.

[00:03:41] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Only a few that I'm really proud of. And then, um, I think the most distressing ones was probably watching. People make their first persona in many attempts. Um, it's been one of the most challenging moments of my life, I have to say. Um, [00:04:00] watching these imaginary stereotypes come to life of moms with shopping and businessmen with gray suits, things like that.

[00:04:09] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Well, we, what

[00:04:09] Gerry Scullion: we could do, and I'm just thinking on my feed here a little bit, we could play devil's advocate and I could be, I could play the role of. Hey. I actually, I think they're, they, they do have a place and they, they do provide value for people in certain organizations, and you could probably play anti version of it.

[00:04:29] Gerry Scullion: Anti persona of my persona,

[00:04:34] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: the anti persona of the persona. Well, look, I, I don't know. I can. I can agree and disagree with personas, like depending on the date, it, it, it really depends on what the goal of it really is. Um, and how terrible they are because there are some real bad ones

[00:04:53] Gerry Scullion: there. There are, but like, you know, let's start off and we'll talk, um, why they're being used.

[00:04:59] Gerry Scullion: [00:05:00] Okay. And I'm gonna, again, we're gonna play those roles. So like, I'm gonna say the reason why I use them again, I'm playing a role folks, this is now neither my, my actual belief system here on persona. I believe that personas are brilliant when you're. To get people who are non designers up to speed, to thinking outta their usual, uh, mental model of, um, you know, what, what they, they believe the customer to be.

[00:05:24] Gerry Scullion: And it becomes a boundary object, uh, which is a kind of a shared perspective, uh, on what the customer is, you know, thinking what they're feeling, feeling, uh, maybe what their belief systems are and also what's the behavior we're trying to change. So I, I think getting people as a first stepping stone. Into design and thinking outside of their own kind of realm is, it's a really positive thing.

[00:05:47] Gerry Scullion: What do you think of that?

[00:05:49] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: the other way. I'd say that they are also a very convenient excuse to not actually do any research or talk to anybody in the real world. Um, [00:06:00] because you have this document that gives you authority to make decisions on other people's behalf. Mm-hmm. , um, and you've got it written there.

[00:06:07] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: This is what they're thinking. This is what they're saying. These are these demographics and you designed based on your assumptions, based on those things.

[00:06:15] Gerry Scullion: If we're doing training and we're just trying to get people up to speed on personas and say, okay, create persona and then the creator persona and it copy from the people within the group and stuff, I always preface that and say they to validated and also need to proper research and bring it back and then learn what needs to change in the personas and so forth.

[00:06:37] Gerry Scullion: If you, if you're working in an organization and you just kind of work together and you kinda go, okay, now we've got our personas. Phew. That was a tough 90 minute session. Who knew? That's all we had to do is create some personas and get a 90 minute session in the calendar. Now we got six personas only doing 5% of the work.

[00:06:55] Gerry Scullion: 95% is going out and act, conducting research to validate them. And [00:07:00] you know, that's the hard part and I think that's a skill and that's a craft. Like yourself. There's probably a handful of times that I've probably really created them and I'm like, yeah, now I've got it. Now, now I've got something. And they, they take months for me.

[00:07:16] Gerry Scullion: And I know in Young has got a theory that you can do a number of phone calls and get a certain perspective, but I would challenge that because there's a risk there. Um, Associated with, okay, well we're just doing just a little bit of research on it and that's enough. Um, whereas to do them thoroughly mm-hmm.

[00:07:33] Gerry Scullion: it's a full-time job in my mind. So what, what do you think, you know, in terms of, am I, am I right in saying that, you know, most organizations will, will understand that.

[00:07:46] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I don't think so. And the reason, I think, the reason I, I would disagree with it is because a lot of organizations that I've, um, been in and that I've collaborated with, [00:08:00] um, Like when I go in there, I often am confronted by personas of decades past and a whole cacophony of them too.

[00:08:10] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Like at some point, I remember running a project where they came out and they were like, oh, here's our personas. And I think it was fif 50 people. 50 people. And what was interesting about it, them as well were, each of them were, um, you know, kind of groups of four or five for each different service Yeah.

[00:08:32] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: That this organization had. And none of them kind of really overlapped or had anything to do with one another. Yeah. Um, or interacted really in any way. And so I think in many ways, That kind of shows me that these things are being made really quickly. Yeah. They're not necessarily being, um, stitched into the fabric or decision making process in, in [00:09:00] organizations and they're, you know, also really underutilized.

[00:09:04] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Like if they are really evidence, evidence driven mm-hmm. and they are validated, they're actually a really powerful tool. Yeah. For teams to. Using for commissioning, for design, for evaluation, all sorts of things. So, so

[00:09:18] Gerry Scullion: if they were done properly and if they were validated, um, if they were kind of correctly framed and had people involved in them as, as a, an outcome of that in a process, do you object to them?

[00:09:31] Gerry Scullion: Whoa. I'm s . Yeah, .

[00:09:34] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I think, I think in some ways I, I would definitely feel more comfortable with them, but I think there's still a part of me that feels the tension of why not just have the person involved in the design process. Okay. So instead of having them represented on a, on a slide deck or on a piece of paper, can't we just [00:10:00] invite this community in to design with us?

[00:10:02] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: And that's the tension between co-design where you're designing with communities and, and human-centered design, where you're designing four communities. So each to their own. I'm probably somewhere further down the co-design spike, but, um, which is, which is cool. But even. But often, like having fantastic personas could transform an organization to be, they've done, they have done community led, it's part of the path.

[00:10:30] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Decades start somewhere

[00:10:32] Gerry Scullion: have, have generated huge value for the organization with centralized thinking. And what I was gonna say, yeah, is. We were talking there about the organizations and they, they do go and they validate them. That's only one part of it. Okay. They need to be continuously evaluated. Okay.

[00:10:52] Gerry Scullion: Because everyone is changing, like the way I was yesterday is not the way I am now. And it's, [00:11:00] it's a lot of work. And typically organizations are on the journey to become more human centered of the journey to become more design bed that function. Has yet to really arrive in the organization, in my experience in terms of design is still a decorative piece.

[00:11:16] Gerry Scullion: It's still a thing that like, okay, well that looks a bit kinda crappy. Let's, let's see if we can bring a designer in. And then the designer comes in, unfortunately, With a beard and a bald hair in glasses, you know, hopefully you can kill that person off. , myself included, . But anyway, they, they get the stereotypical designer in for a little period of time.

[00:11:37] Gerry Scullion: They might do some research, they might do whatever it is, and then they walk away and they don't have that function there to really perpetually evaluate them and question them and challenge them. So that was the first thing that you said. And second thing was, This is a real problem. Um, when you go into a team and they've got you, we've got our six songs on the wall, and you're like, ok, cool.

[00:11:58] Gerry Scullion: Then you turn the corner and then there's another [00:12:00] team could be marketing or it could be product management or someone else. Yeah. Yeah. We've got the, and we've got, you know, then we've got. Got over here. We've got Steve, the drama, and Steve the drama's a really a caring person. He's an entrepreneur. I'm like, oh my God, they've used a to totally different perspective.

[00:12:16] Gerry Scullion: I haven't got complete, got archetypes going on here, and the other person were more jobs to be done. I'm like, but then you turn the corner around and then you might have the sales people who've done the design thinking course and like, yeah, we've got our own personas. And you've got different hierarchy happening of personas.

[00:12:33] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. . How can we get around that? Okay. Like how, how can that be challenged? Can it be challenged?

[00:12:42] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Look, can, I think it has to be challenge. I think it has to be challenged, and I think this is both. This is both kind of a power literacy exercise. It's a, um, you know, it's an org change exercise where [00:13:00] the reason everybody has created their own personas is because they see the value of being connected.

[00:13:08] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: With who they're designing for. So there's definitely an unmet need that these things are filling. Yeah. Um, what unfortunately hasn't happened in these cases is that they haven't worked across Yeah. The organization to do it together. And so in some ways each of these, um, kind of sets of personas is like one fragment or one element of who their customer actually is.

[00:13:36] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Yeah. And. In the projects that I've worked in, it's often, especially when trying to amalgamate them, it's actually been that validation activity of going out and validating personas, which means we can shut some of these Yeah, down for good and, and also kind of grow the ones that are strong into [00:14:00] really multi.

[00:14:01] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Dimensional's. My

[00:14:02] Gerry Scullion: coffee folks. Go ahead. . They're multidimensional. Sorry, that sounded like I was doing something else, but it was actually

[00:14:07] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: my coffee. I was getting distracted. No , no really multidimensional kind of characters that spit and. and that speak to not only the marketing team, but the finance team, the design team, the, you know, the strategy, like all sorts of elements.

[00:14:25] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: And it creates kind of an alignment between these groups to really serve the needs of the people they wanna be designing

[00:14:32] Gerry Scullion: for. Yeah. I mean, if there was a, a function within the organization that had hierarchical kind of power to really control that, that's one of the things. Typically, uh, is not in place when you see this happening where design is still kind of owned by technology or designed is owned by, um, another part of the business.

[00:14:57] Gerry Scullion: It's very hard to challenge that. It's almost like if that [00:15:00] is happening in your organization, you need to step out of your, um, hierarchical, um, kinda power structure. And go above the pay grades and say, listen, look, we've got a problem here. Like everyone's working in different directions. Um, and we need to get these personas aligned.

[00:15:17] Gerry Scullion: We need to understand the customer. And in order to do that, you need to have pretty strong stakeholder skills. That's my experience. You need to be able to speak to people who aren't designers and really sell what this can give the organization. Like I, I look to, so in my own experience, when. I remember I went into, I won't name the business it was in, it was in Australia.

[00:15:40] Gerry Scullion: And um, I was taking over a project from somebody. Um, they went in and there was 13 songs in the wall and they were all, some slight variance of the same thing, like, you know, um, um, um, they. Features [00:16:00] like software features requested as part of them. And it was like they had the feature. Mm-hmm. . And then they had, okay, well this person's asking for that one, so we need to get that one done.

[00:16:11] Gerry Scullion: And suddenly there was a, if the persona was on the wall and there was a feature request re requested within the persona, that was one way to get it into the funnel. I said, okay, well we need to get it into the background. Mm. Well, what are the common things that you're seeing? Like I could probably, I could probably go down a rabbit over year and, and start getting myself angry and I'd start crying in a minute.

[00:16:34] Gerry Scullion: we don't want that. What are the common things that you see within personas that, uh, people are doing

[00:16:43] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: wrong? That people are doing it wrong? Well, look, I think the first part that I see happening a lot is that personas are made. A very long time ago, sometimes three or four generations [00:17:00] of a design team ago, and nobody really understands why they are the way they are.

[00:17:05] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Yeah. Um, and how they came to be. Um, and so actually one of the biggest mistakes is having an old persona that's never been updated. And it doesn't take much to kind of interrogate it right now. Everything has changed for so many people in the last couple of years. How is this persona still relevant now is something that we should be asking before applying, um, the them as a tool.

[00:17:35] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: So

[00:17:35] Gerry Scullion: let's talk about that. Now again, I'm, I'm playing my role playing here, like, you know, um, how often should they be evaluat.

[00:17:44] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I think it really would depend on what type of business you're in, because I think some areas are obviously gonna be CH government. You're a designer for, for government.[00:18:00]

[00:18:01] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: No such thing as designing for everyone. Um, I think there is, um, for government, look, I, you know, finger in the air, I would say at least every five years, at least. At least, I was gonna say every six months at least. Well, that would be ideal, right? So, so the goal, like the ultimate goal would be, you know, starting off with personas that are at least regularly looked at and it's on your, on your cycle to kind of review and design them.

[00:18:37] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: But then, you know, you wanna kind of move towards it being really based on real time data. Yeah. And need. So, so the go, like, you know, whether or not that lives in a persona or whether or not that lives adjacent to a persona, like many of the circumstances around their life might not be [00:19:00] changing, but there might be things that are becoming more prominent or less prominent depending on what's going on in the world and, and around

[00:19:07] Gerry Scullion: them.

[00:19:07] Gerry Scullion: Some of the things that, when I say about evaluating the personas, um, People who've created the personas, if they're still there, evaluating them is a big mistake. Um, ok. Cause

[00:19:20] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Yeah, no, don't, don't let them do that. And again, great.

[00:19:24] Gerry Scullion: I'm not on the, uh, the host folks, so, um, how, how and why should that not happen?

[00:19:34] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Well, obviously there's a issue of bias. Bias, um, and there's a, an. And an issue of, I guess, yeah. Just almost knowing too much about them in order to any, be able to meaningfully interrogate or change them at that point. Right. Absolutely. Um, and like if you have made personas in [00:20:00] the past and had some pretty prickly stakeholders, like the final design of your persona might actually be something you personally despise.

[00:20:11] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: But you, you, you won't, will no longer change it cuz you know how hard it was to make them in the, in the past place, the resistance from the organization. That's one of those don't ask, don't tell. Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I think in many ways evaluation of personas could take many lenses and if you do have like a UX kind of hat on, you could genuinely test them and see whether or not people can make a great decision or a great design out based on

[00:20:39] Gerry Scullion: them.

[00:20:39] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So, Evaluating them, um, how I do it. And in my experience, and again, I'd love to get your perspective on that, like, um, is do they show up and how often do they show up, um, is, you know, one way to throw them against the wall, um mm-hmm. like, when was the last time you heard this? You know, when that, [00:21:00]that's how I look at it and say, well, let's quantify it and.

[00:21:03] Gerry Scullion: Let's see. There might be a case of doing some straw man, um, or straw people, should we say, um, personas and put them up on the wall and say, well, let's, let's challenge them. Let's, let's see how these people have changed. Mm-hmm. on my old mm-hmm. , how do you do it?

[00:21:18] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Oh, look, I think so for me, how I. I evaluate them and how I've been doing it lately is actually taking my embarrassing personas.

[00:21:29] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: If they aren't too embarrassing, if they're kind of relevant, but need a refresh, I take them out into community love and I get them to build them. What that tends to do is add layers to them. So it kind of, often in the healthcare space, which is where I tend to work, it starts putting in the social determinants of health.

[00:21:53] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: We start hearing a little bit about their housing situation. We start talking about access and [00:22:00] accessibility. Um, we have discussions about finance and other things that, you know, might not be a feature that you're looking for, but actually help you, uh, kind of communicate better and also, um, get a full fledged picture of their universe.

[00:22:18] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Um, so that's how I would evaluate them

[00:22:22] Gerry Scullion: given, so there, there might be some people listening to this who are working in enterprise or um, even in government as well, and they're like, ok, well try and do this Joe, very sort of, uh, inspirational person here on this podcast. I'm gonna, I'm gonna bring out to community.

[00:22:39] Gerry Scullion: Walk me through in as many details as possible and I mean, you know, getting the bus, tapping your card. I wanna know everything, what that means. Okay, so you, you walk into an organization, me, you, side by side, they're like, everyone is like, here comes trouble. Here's the two of them. They're gonna be evaluating the personas and bringing them [00:23:00] out to community.

[00:23:01] Gerry Scullion: So, What do you do and like how do you set that up and how many people are involved and how do you make sure that the people in the room are actually gonna. Actually make the process better and not just make it go skewy and messy and all that kinda stuff. All the good stuff.

[00:23:19] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Definitely, definitely. So I guess, um, I can run you through a real example of ones that we did.

[00:23:27] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: So, um, so the first step, obviously is to do a little bit of groundwork. So firstly, you don't wanna be wasting anybody's time by going out to Evaluat. Personas that, you know, are already fundamentally kind of disproven. Um, and so there's a little bit of legwork, um, probably working with a data team or working with some, you know, um, secondary research to kind of validate whether or not these people actually exist or whether or not they were just a figment of an, [00:24:00] the imagination or a 12 workshop.

[00:24:02] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: What was the process? Finally, it kind of turned out quite cool, you know? So there's the investigation of the process. There's the kind of validation of the data, um, and kind of updating the data. So, for example, in one of my projects, we found that somebody who was a, um, you know, a frequent and, uh, And really, um, critical user of like a healthcare service, had a refugee background, lived in a certain suburb, um, was artistic and something else, like we found some random data that seemed to point that this person was the demographic that really needed support from a specific service.

[00:24:49] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Mm-hmm. . Um, and so what we did after that was genuinely. Recruit looked for this person. Okay. So we went through the networks. Um, [00:25:00] we, we kind of put the word out that this is who we are looking for. And using the data that we had found, we listed kind of what the elements, which are really the elements in your persona.

[00:25:11] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Yeah. Right. Like some key. Kind of themes or structures that you wanted to talk about. Um, and so we found this person, this amazing person, lived and existed and actually, um, was currently didn't have a home and was, uh, you know, going through some pretty tough times out in that suburb. Um, and so we ran an interview with them.

[00:25:37] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: So firstly we ran an interview. Yeah, one-on-one.

[00:25:40] Gerry Scullion: I was just gonna say, so you say you found that. . So usually we found that personas are made up of maybe 12 or 20 different perspectives, and there's a theme brought out. So when you say Definit was this one person, I know that people listening there going [00:26:00] what?

[00:26:01] Gerry Scullion: Um,

[00:26:02] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: But that's, yeah. So we went kind of inverse on it. Yeah, so, so we were kind of data driven to find the person and then we found the person. Um, and so for us, I guess the challenge there was. You know, helping this person tell their story. And for us, our, our kind of, how we wanted to design our persona was more narrative driven.

[00:26:29] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: So what we made were kind of quick sound bites of their story with some, um, kind of key points for people to reflect on. Um, and so we got them to tell their story and in many ways, the persona became those sound snippets he used audio of, of what they said. Audio. So audio and illustration. Um, and in some ways they designed the persona.

[00:26:59] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: It's their [00:27:00] story. That's the persona. Now, so did you use diary studies to, but it

[00:27:02] Gerry Scullion: was based on another one. Diary is a, a method that you use to capture, or not even capture, but just gather, um, their narrative.

[00:27:14] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: You definitely could. You definitely could for us. We just had a few interviews with that one person.

[00:27:19] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Um, but what was with that one person? And what we did do, which is interesting, is like we would send them back the drafts of who we had made and they would kind of critique them just like in any design critique. Um, and so in the end we had like a series of these video snippet. As our personas, um, that people could slice up and use as provocations for their design and decision making process.

[00:27:53] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Okay,

[00:27:54] Gerry Scullion: so there's very little I don't like about that process, but one, one [00:28:00] kind of, again, I'm playing my role again here, folks, but that's only one person. How can you, how can you lay your hat on that like, you know, if there's only one person, that's not a theme, that's just one person, are you designing it for just them?

[00:28:13] Gerry Scullion: What do you say to that?

[00:28:15] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I would say we actually had se service usage data to validate that this one person's experience was common to a few thousand others. Okay. Um, and so in many ways that's how we found them. We located them using the data, and then we took what we heard and we validated that using kind of services.

[00:28:36] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: So they weren't an h. Um, and you could, they weren't an edge case, but they seemed outta control, like when you were, when you were listening to them or, you know, it was hard to believe that somebody's life story could be so complex. Yeah. To be completely honest, but I think in many ways for us, Um, what was good about this [00:29:00] project is it actually is something that is now going to be used, um, to determine.

[00:29:08] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Which tenders are successful for government services, for government health services, and so many of these personas are actually provocations for people to tell us how they're gonna meet the needs of this community. Okay. So it's like having it simple actually probably would've limited the effect of these particular stories and personas.

[00:29:36] Gerry Scullion: That all sounds brilliant, like, you know, um, If you're, if you're in an organization though, that have got the paper ones up there and you've got the picture of the, uh, the person blowing pets into the wind and, um, , you know, you know, the, the royalty

[00:29:53] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Women's Smiling at Salad is my favorite one. I pull that one out where I'm like, Is that a real thing?

[00:29:59] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Is [00:30:00] this really a cultural phenomenon that I don't know about, I'm missing out on? Yeah, I

[00:30:04] Gerry Scullion: mean, like when I'm, when I'm teaching, uh, I've got a, a UX course and this is city and that's not me trying to, but one of the things that I do is, is the. The difference in approaches to personas, the three different types and how you can actually make a decision of each one of them, the different perspectives and how they can actually send in different directions.

[00:30:28] Gerry Scullion: Um, and I mean, that's, that's really how I determine is it, is it effective? Is it good? Is it good for the organization? How often are they being used to stress test the decision making process? I mean, if you're not doing that, Throw them away cuz they're just, they're just on the wall and they're just bloody decorations.

[00:30:48] Gerry Scullion: Okay. But Christmas decorations, except Christmas decorations get taken down in January. Um, the personas get to live on and just, They don't do anyone a favor. They don't do anyone [00:31:00] if that's how you, they do their eyes follow you around the room. Like, you know, you're not really using me, are you? I'm like, no, we're not.

[00:31:10] Gerry Scullion: I've written like the reason why we're doing this is because, you know, style. They sent me a message, um, two years ago, , it's a while ago now. My, I found this in my inbox and I was like, Did you just send this? And they're like, oh, I did. I sent it again. I just found it. And I wrote this article on personas a couple of years ago, and I'm like, and I just wanted to share it to you to see what you think.

[00:31:37] Gerry Scullion: And I'm like, this is cool. I said it because even if you are a huge lover of personas and you disagree with some of these things, that's cool. We just wanna have the conversation about it. And I think we need to have conversations more about the methods that we use. Why are we using 'em? Is this effective one?

[00:31:53] Gerry Scullion: Cause we can just. So in love with. You know, doing things the same way, and it doesn't [00:32:00] have to be that way. So we've got that article. We're, we're gonna publish it, aren't we, Joe? We're gonna put it on thisd com. We

[00:32:08] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: sure are. But you've got other,

[00:32:10] Gerry Scullion: you, you've got other thinking on this. You're gonna. Um, we're, we're gonna share them out as well, um, maybe in, in the next couple of months.

[00:32:19] Gerry Scullion: But the plan is every time we do a, a log post, we have something to accompany the, uh, the actual, uh, podcast as well. So you can follow along. You, you put a test up there, which I really loved, um, a persona quiz. Um, and there's a few other things in there like, you know, does your persona have a problem and how you might get to men them and stuff.

[00:32:40] Gerry Scullion: So your. The reason why we connected years ago was whenever you do anything, Joe, it always seems to be really helpful, really valuable, . Um, and my last question about personas is, um, is that the case with personas? Are [00:33:00] they always valuable and are, are they always helpful in, in your mind? Have they ever had a role in your life?

[00:33:07] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I think they, they've definitely had had a really powerful role, especially when I was starting out my design career, I guess in many ways. Personas then gave me the confidence to advocate for people and for communities. Like I had this artifact and it made me feel confident and I could go in there and I could.

[00:33:35] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: You know, say, you know what, this isn't good enough. We have to make this better. We have to design it like this, or we need to learn more about this. Mm-hmm. You know, it was like Dumbo and the feather. The feather was my persona. Yeah. And I was there and it gave me the courage to be the designer in the room going, have we listened and have we done a good job?

[00:33:59] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I think in [00:34:00] many ways, I feel like, um, that's kind of the strength of them. Um, the challenge is if you are in an organization and you've just inherited some pretty. Suspicious or not quite right, personas where decisions are being made, um, for communities, um, for people on their behalf, but they aren't real people and they're not based on data or they're outdated.

[00:34:30] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: And so we are really, not only are we missing the opportunity to, um, make great decisions, but we're also in some ways, you know, gatekeeping. More deeper design research because we've got this piece of paper that says yes, but Dan, you know, what's his name, says he loves popups. I mean, ,

[00:34:54] Gerry Scullion: most people listen to this.

[00:34:55] Gerry Scullion: Like there's a, there's a pretty mature audience, um, which I'm learning more, more about [00:35:00] hello, mature audience. Um, but most of the people will get the value of doing research, I believe. They will do the research and then hopefully they'll distill some insights and some actions from that research. Mm-hmm.

[00:35:15] Gerry Scullion: and they've kinda forgotten about these personas. They don't, they don't match it back. So they got a project now they do the research. Yeah, definitely. Personas are kind of like just these stepping stones that of they're en graves for almost in, in, within a, uh, like a j or a Confluence or something. I'm not really actionable.

[00:35:35] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. How, how, um, what do you think they should do in that instance? So they just kill them off and say, okay, well let's, let's, you know, bring them back to life or, To take a different approach. What's your thought? What's your thought on that?

[00:35:51] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Well, I guess you've got kind of a few options, like in some ways, um, I think there's a huge opportunity [00:36:00] to, um, kind of build out and deepen existing personas with the research that you're currently doing.

[00:36:07] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Yeah. Um, like why not just iterate over the top or augment. , like that's, that's pretty, that's pretty quick and easy kind of win. I think the other option is, you know, um, kind of shifting more towards, um, walking, getting away from the personas, but kind of taking the best bits of what personas can do and just making sure that the research that you do is shared broadly.

[00:36:40] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Does enable decisions like is written in a way that can help provoke people to make decisions that are great or, um, designs that are guided by needs. Um, and so, Like, that's the other thing. I think in many ways personas just because of how they're designed, are excellent [00:37:00] communication tools. Yeah. Um, and abstraction kind of lenses to understand something.

[00:37:05] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: So, you know, how can we make sure that the research that you're currently doing, Can be applied just like personas would in the real world. Absolutely.

[00:37:16] Gerry Scullion: There's, there's a whole host of stuff that we can probably, uh, tackle in future episodes. Um, so maybe when we get to do the, um, the other blog posts and episodes, we, we'll take those.

[00:37:27] Gerry Scullion: If you've got any questions about anything that we've spoken about here, you can just email in on the, the link is on the, the website. I'll share it to Joe. Um, alternative you, if people wanna reach out to you, Joe. Are you on mastered in now or are you still all in on Twitter?

[00:37:44] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: I'm put, I'm somewhere in there.

[00:37:47] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Put link to both

[00:37:47] Gerry Scullion: of those. Cause I think most people that I know anyway are, are kinda like they're in both camps at the moment. They're kind like. Know, not sure what to do. Waiting, knows what's gonna happen on Twitter. It could [00:38:00] be uh, could be a ball of fire in the next week. . Um, so Master Is is growing, uh, design community over there.

[00:38:08] Gerry Scullion: I'm on there as well and Joe's on there and there's other great people up there as well. Um, that seems to be much more reactive. Well, what's your thoughts so far in terms of getting in touch with people and getting responses and stuff?

[00:38:21] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Oh, definitely. I think I'm actually making a whole new group of friends actually on, on Master, on Sam, which is great.

[00:38:29] Gerry Scullion: It's really cool. Um, it's like the early days of Twitter, if anyone remembers the early days of Twitter. I feel like a, when I say that, but it is like when you tweet something and you get response, you know, oh dunno, they're, they look interesting. And then you start a conversation and before you know it to new friends, like, you know, but.

[00:38:50] Gerry Scullion: Joe, listen, look, thanks for giving me your, your time and energy this morning. Um, your evening. Obviously you're in Melbourne. Um, but we'll put a link to the, the blog post in this, [00:39:00] um, in the show notes. And again, looking forward to catching up with we next blog, post and podcasts.

[00:39:07] Jo 🌈 Szczepańska: Yeah, let's do it. Thank you.

[00:39:10] Gerry Scullion: You're a brilliant show.

[00:39:14] Gerry Scullion: There you go, folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode and if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is hate where you can learn more about what we are up to and also explore our courses while through there. Thanks again for listening.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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