Personas Document Shared Understanding About Users

Whether or not personas can help design teams achieve empathy for their users, personas may still be worthwhile as a document that shares a team's current understanding of their users' perspectives, values, and priorities. While affective empathy can be difficult to achieve, cognitive empathy—consider another person's more functional needs—seems more attainable. Personas can be an effective shorthand for that purpose, if nothing else reminding product or design teams that there is a real, human user on the other side of the experience whose goals may differ from their own.

This can keep teams manage the scope of their project. Alan Cooper suggests that personas can help prevent feature creep, as well as helping teams focus on user goals rather than features. Personas therefore may have utility as focalizing tools that, if used effectively, help limit design changes and establish a shared understanding and vocabulary about users.



Cooper, Alan. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. Sams Publishing, 2004.

Haag, Maren, and Nicola Marsden. “Exploring Personas as a Method to Foster Empathy in Student IT Design Teams.” International Journal of Technology and Design Education, April 24, 2018.

Harley, Aurora. “Personas Make Users Memorable for Product Team Members.” Nielsen Norman Group (blog). Accessed October 10, 2020.