Using consumer research to validate design personas

Problem

In working through one of the early “fuzzy front end” deliverables on their Visual Control Board, a client had generated five different design personas based on assumed user interests. Their methodology used internal brainstorming and consensus building and before “betting the farm” on the guidance these personas provided, market-based validation was necessary.

Approach

Working with our sister company, Concurrent Strategies, a consumer-based questionnaire was built to both test the validity of the five personas and to gather related socio-demographic, lifestyle, and geographic information as well as behavioral and product preferences. The questionnaire was fielded using the company’s mailing list and posted on relevant user discussion and blog sites.

Results

Using the rich database that resulted from the survey, five statistically-significant market segments were identified. One was found to map directly onto some of the hypothetical personas and other four defined very different user types that were previously assumed. The information was reduced to easy-to-interpret infographic consumer maps and used to directly inform the design process. Offering questionnaire respondents discounts from the company’s web storefront offset the cost of the research.