Are Personas Good or Evil?
Ask 37 Signals: Personas?
"We don’t use personas. We use ourselves. I believe personas lead to a false sense of understanding at the deepest, most critical levels." (Credit a few people, including David Armano's tweet)
Use of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400%
"Countless once-skeptical businesses have changed their tune about personas [define]. The successes have been well documented, but a lot of smart people continue to scoff at the idea, thinking personas are a touchy-feely attempt to connect with customers on, like, a cosmic level — and that you'd have to be some kind of marketing hippy to waste budget on fluff like that." (Credit Conversation Marketing)
Here's My Take
37 Signals may be right in not creating personas, since they create their products for themselves and their needs first. However, since they're in that position, I tend to believe that they may not have gone through the process necessary to really discover why people would consider creating personas.
Their answer certainly seems to belie a serious misunderstanding about them. They are considering personas through their own worldview, which, as we've discussed many times here, is replete with risks.
A persona isn't really just a tool. It is an exercise. However, it can and should also be looked at as a shorthand sticky reference. The best personas utilize interviews, focus groups, ethnographics, statistics, and other disparate research to help conceptualize the audience in concrete terms -- particularly to people who haven't gone through all of the steps performing and gathering all the research that went into building them.
Researchers could just lay out all the stacks of research before the team, but no one would read it and just as many would understand it all. - Cam Beck
Image by Jen the Librarian.