Planning Your Persona Project: Part 2 of 2

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Note: This was originally a 2-part blog post that my colleague Meghan and I wrote for Elastic Path. This post is a follow up to Are Personas A Good Fit for Your Project?. In this post, we talk about the preliminary tasks that need to be taken care of before going forward with an ethnographic user research project.

Yes, I want personas! Now what?

So personas look like they’re a good fit for your project. But before the recruiting and interviewing, there’s a bit of housekeeping that happens first to ensure that the project goes smoothly and successfully. When we work with clients on a personas project, we often have a kick-off meeting to nail down the following:

Study Goals

You will want to identify the burning questions you have about your users and their behaviors. Broader questions (ex: “How are our customers using their smartphones?”) make more sense for projects that are nascent, whereas more targeted questions (ex: “How are customers using our Pricing tool for their work?”) work best for projects that are already in development. Essentially, you will want to come up with a small set of general topic areas that will get you useful, actionable data. As a guideline, we usually recommend about 4-5 topic areas for an hour long interview.

Related Research

Tracking down market research and demographic data will help you hone in on the areas that need further research. Internal subject matter experts (front line sales reps, customer reps, product managers etc) can also help you refine your questions, especially if you need to whittle them down to a manageable set.

Study Participants

Who do you want to study—who’s most important and why? For products with a large reach, narrowing down your pool of user types will present savings in terms of cost and time. What criteria will you use to determine who should be included and who won’t be? How will you find and incent your users?


When will you need to have the personas ready by? What projects will they influence? Be certain to create a work-back schedule with all the gory detailed tasks so that you can meet your dates. Keep in mind an average personas project with 20-25 interviews can take around 6-8 weeks from beginning to end.

What happens next?

Once these preliminary questions are sorted out, then you’re ready to kick off your personas project and start planning the research and working out all of the details.

Curious what a persona looks like? See our recently published Gen Y personas as an example.

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