A new research paper investigates the effectiveness of personas in design teams to arrive at usable designs: Real or Imaginary: The effectiveness of using personas in product design, By Frank Long. People have advocated the usefulness of personas for a long time now–from Cooper to Pruit and Adlin. It’s good to see some more solid evidence to support the use of personas.
Here’s the abstract:
The use of personas as a method for communicating user requirements in collaborative design environments is well established. However, very little research has been conducted to quantify the benefits of using this technique. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of using personas. An experiment was conducted over a period of 5 weeks using students from NCAD. The results showed that, through using personas, designs with superior usability characteristics were produced. They also indicate that using personas provides a significant advantage during the research and conceptualisation stages of the design process (supporting previously unfounded claims). The study also investigated the effects of using different presentation methods to present personas and concluded that photographs worked better than illustrations, and that visual storyboards were more effective in presenting task scenarios than text only versions.