Open Personas could be a great resource for the community

7 Feb 2013 - 2:26pm
3 years ago
15 replies
4696 reads
Jeremy Kriegel

Imagine if there were a repository of personas you could go to as a starting point for your own work? This was the idea that Steve Mulder and I had a few years ago. Now we are trying to make it happen. We need your help. 

The ultimate vision is for a persona marketplace where people can submit personas they can share and browse personas that have been submitted. In the meantime, we'll post content in a blog format. We need volunteers willing to:

  • share personas they've created
  • create content on making and using personas
  • help design a marketplace solution
  • help build a marketplace solution
If you are interested in helping, drop me a line at jer at moots org
For more info, go to


11 Feb 2013 - 12:11am

A great idea with great challenges! A couple of things coming to my mind:

(1) How people would/could use it in what ways. That's the very first thing in mind, 'cos persona is to be put into a specific context during the design process and one of the challenges might be how to enable the "plug-in" of personas as smooth and convinient as possible.

(2) How to deal with cultural differences. Personas are good and useful in rather diverse ways in difference "cultures (either social culture or design culture)". How to cope up with that ever-evolving dynamics.

Love the idea by all means!

11 Feb 2013 - 2:02am


I also loved the idea and I'm already working in a concept about it with my thesis.
It will be very interesting to work somehow together :)
Kind regards,
Jane Vita

11 Feb 2013 - 4:52pm


yay, I like the genereal idea behind it: sharing experience and "real-life" examples of our ux-toolkits. And I would be more than happy to volunteer on that one.

But I think I don't get the main point of your open persona vision:

- Are you trying to get examples of personas to share a better understanding or inspiration for how a persona could look like? (So the goal would be: improve the "persona design"/ layout/ description)

- Or should this be a pool of personas that could be used by others? Which...would be difficult, as I agree with kingofark: personas are used in specific contexts.

It would be great to create a common data pool though that would serve as a source for persona creation; there are tons of data about user behaviour out there that would be very helpful for developing useful personas. Uh, that would be fabulous :-)


12 Feb 2013 - 1:00am
Phillip Hunter

Like Frauke, I'm curious about your goals. The primary benefit of personas comes in the research and development of them, allowing you know deeply the people who will use your product, not in the having. A library of them would seem convenient, but would be as beneficial as fast food. Easy and sort of tasty, but not very nutritional or satisfying. What are you after?

12 Feb 2013 - 4:23am

Good idea in principal, but as others have pointed out this does not come without its challenges. Personas can be tackled in very different ways and at varying levels of fidelity. I feel that for an Open Personas platform to work it would need to establish an Open Persona Standard. If not, you would just have a big bucket of documents with huge variance in approach and style. Of course, you could ask submitters to organise these into categories of Personas, but the formats would be open to interpretation. An Open Persona Standard should allow for flexibility in amount of information presented but have some core principles that contributors should establish and use (think along the lines of Microformats for HTML). This would allow for artistic expression and styles, but this veneer would be grounded upon an established standard.

12 Feb 2013 - 4:42am
Digital Crusade

I would presume this would work as a database where you could search for specific information.

For example, if the target audience of your website or application is female cat owners, you could enter these search terms and view personas that matched to assist you in creating your own user persona.

The repository could hold 10 different personas based on the search term of female cat owners. From the stored collection of personas you could then find out that most female cat owners are aged between 30-65, are single, and tend to own more than one cat.

I think by sharing personas amongst our community this would significantly speed up time spent on user research.

I am not sure this is how Jeremy intended the repository to work, but I could see something like this being useful to us all.

12 Feb 2013 - 8:24pm

Cool idea, Jeremy and Steve. I get what folks are saying about context, and agree that there should be standards in place ("personas" seems to be open to lots of interpretations--for example, I could very well be mistaken in my assumption that you are talking about ethnographic personas).  That said, it's nice to be able to point to real examples to help educate clients, learn the process/methodology, etc.  I was actually looking for something like this awhile back (see thread: but couldn't turn anything up.  So another designer and I created some to share over here:  

We're also working on another set on another topic that we plan on sharing/releasing in the spring sometime.

Feel free to message me if you'd like to use either of them in your project...uhm, if we're talking about the same kind of personas that is :) 

21 Feb 2013 - 10:02am
Jeremy Kriegel

Wow. It's great to see how this idea has engaged people. 

I agree with most of the questions and concerns that have been raised. You've hit on a lot of the issues that Steve and I originally wrestled with. Part of the goal of opening this up to the community was, in a sense, to help crowdsource the solution. 

We have thought about the pros and cons of a standard format that people enter their info in vs. a tagging system that would allow for the submission of a wider diversity of content. 

Clearly doing your own research, specific to your context, is superior, but as many teams don't have the ability to do that, something would be better than nothing. I believe that team alignment is better than persona perfection, but I would be willing to change my mind based on community input.

I'm currently looking for a (hopefully free, as this is funded out of my pocket) collaboration platform that people can use to self-organize and collaborate on exactly these issues. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

Currently, I see this project evolving in two phases. The first is a blog. This gives contributors a forum to post personas that people can search for as well as a central place for content (or links to content) on creating and using them. This will give the community a place to go while we work on a platform that would better support the mission.

21 Feb 2013 - 2:31pm

Interesting idea.

Like Phillip I have questions. Personas are a documentation technique for an emergent definition of the range/categorization of people you are researching. Without the research as the basis for the persona, what are you doing with that persona?

Instead of collecting personas as a primary artifact to share, could you collect the data in a semi structured fashion that would allow people to formulate personas and share them from their analysis. This would allow people to have a much larger scale of data to do a much larger range of research.

Be the data repository and the visualization of that data for the purposes of creating personas, workflows, and day-in-th-life activities.


21 Feb 2013 - 6:36pm
Jeremy Kriegel

The idea of collecting the raw data is very interesting. 

I agree that this is not perfect for a team, but I believe that for those with nothing, something is an improvement. They can use something to align the team and demonstrate the value of a good persona. Then, perhaps using content on, they can embark on a proper persona endeavor.


22 Feb 2013 - 4:28am

No one has mentioned Agile yet, which is where I see open personas having the greatest relevance. From experience, highly detailed and thorough research for personas is often out of scope. If sprint zero is long enough then you may be able to spend more time on this, but usually I am faced with a number of tasks and a need to create a proof of concept for what we are hoping to accomplish. Open personas, which in the tradition of Agile, clear the roadblocks from the road and get the team some insights for the sprint ahead will be very useful. The personas can then become less foggy as sprint cycles progress.

I attended Agile User-Centred Design Integration (AUCDI 2013) at York University last week, and with this post in mind took the opportunity on your behalf to ask the attendees (a good mix of academia and industry) what they thought of the idea of having open personas. Response was strong, especially from the developers in the room who said any resources like this that they can immediately begin to use to inform their decisions would be very welcome.

22 Feb 2013 - 9:18am

UX Magazine has an article on personas.


22 Feb 2013 - 2:45pm
Jeremy Kriegel

@digikev - I think you hit it for me. I've been working in agile environments for the last 6 years and a lot of agencies and small companies prior where proper personas (and often even assumptive personas) were not a high enough priority to be done. 

For all those who have contacted me directly or submitted their info on offering to help:

I am working on getting some environments set up where people can collaborate on this. I will let you know when they are ready. Bear with me. I'm only a partial techie, so dealing with domains and installing apps on servers and managing cnames and such takes me a bit of time.


26 Feb 2013 - 4:04pm
Jeremy Kriegel

For those of you who are interested in helping to make this project come to life, I've set up a forum on to use to collaborate. It is a simple forum, but hopefully it will give us a place to discuss ideas, resolve issues, post designs, and coordinate development. Simply go there and register an account and I will approve it.


I've started a few threads to kick things off, but this project belongs to all of us and we will all contribute to its definition. 


My hope is that this will be a fun, engaging, and useful project that will benefit the UX community for years to come. With your help, it is possible. 


I look forward to seeing how this evolves. Let me know how I can be of service. 



28 Feb 2013 - 6:25am
Paul Bryan

This could be a good project for you to learn about the benefits and limitations of personas.

The format and story lines of personas is not useful. It's the support they provide for design decision making that makes them useful, which means they have to be based on real world data specific to a business. Basing decisions on customer characteristics that are not backed up by specific data is like making decisions in life based on faulty assumptions - dangerous.

To successfully use a generic persona, a company would have to do the same amount of work in order to be able to create personas that they can base real world decisions, and potentially millions of dollars, on.

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