Personas non grata?

For our homework this week, we worked on user journeys and a sitemap for a theoretical app called School Lunch Buddy. School Lunch Buddy is an app that helps parents and guardians of schoolchildren manage funds for their children’s school lunches. They can add funds to their School Lunch Buddy account using their credit card and even set up automatic funds replenishment, which will charge them on a schedule. Money management is the main functionality of the app, though there are secondary features such as viewing a lunch subsidy status or the lunch calendar.

I’ve worked on user journeys and sitemaps in previous classes. My main impression from this week was how refreshing it was to work on a user journey using user personas I had not also created. The fact that these “users” were new to me made their frustrations, problems and needs feel more real. It makes me wonder if an IxD or UXD team of several people would benefit by keeping themselves fresh to certain elements of the process, as I was.

If I had created the personas of Samantha, Jorge and Henry, would I have been more intellectually bored by the time it came to creating their user journeys? Probably. Then again, instead of this speaking to the benefit of keeping one’s mind fresh throughout this process (if not through a team split then through whatever means possible), perhaps this speaks to the redundancy of creating user personas.

One of my classmates said several months ago that her UXD company does not utilize user personas anymore. An article was shared via Slack (which unfortunately has been buried within the archives at this point) about how keeping the demographics of the user base in mind was helpful enough for her UXD team. Personas were redundant and served mostly as flashy material for stakeholders, not fodder for a creative mind.

I’m not here to say personas should go. If anything, I think they were really helpful when it came to creating my user journeys. I’m just lamenting the fact that if I were working in a firm and doing this process in real time, I would have probably been involved in the creation of these personas and they would not have felt so helpful, perhaps.

Note: This blog was written during IxD week 1.


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