The Power of Personas

animated images of a variety of people
June 27, 2018

There are many analogies about starting big projects—some clichéd (putting your shoulder to a boulder, a journey of a thousand miles, etc.) and some quite gross (eating the elephant one bite at a time).

Analogies aside, that is exactly where the website redesign project finds itself this month—taking the initial steps to get this endeavour in motion. Specifically, we are starting the critical consultation stage—reaching out to multiple individuals who represent our diverse group of stakeholders, with the aim of learning how they use our current website and what they would like to see in the future UTM site.

The information and feedback that these sessions provide will help accomplish a small but critical part of our research process: it will help us build out our “user personas”. A “persona” is a fictional representation of an actual user and it’s vital to the success of our project because they identify common user needs. They help us understand how our various users function in terms of goals and capabilities. And they bring that knowledge to the forefront of planning before design is even contemplated.

To my mind, the most important thing about personas is that they create more empathy and understanding about the actual people using the website. Because ultimately, our website is not about sparkly tech or the pre-existing mental models that our team may bring to the table—it’s about helping our community members find the information they need.

Keep in touch, 

Nicolle Wahl
Assistant Director, Communications (Digital)
U of T Mississauga