Personas are often used to represent the characteristics, needs, and goals of target users. There are three main types of personas: qualitative, statistical, and proto-personas. While personas have been widely used in UX design, there is a growing trend toward questioning their necessity.
Qualitative personas are based on direct interaction with users. They require time-consuming interviews and observation to create. Statistical personas, on the other hand, rely on analytics and demographic data to construct. While they can be created quickly, they may not provide a complete picture of the user. Proto-personas are the most speculative type of persona, relying on assumptions and guesses rather than data.
Proto-personas, which were once dismissed as unreliable, have gained popularity in the agile era. They allow for rapid iteration and quick adaptation to new information. By relying on the best guesses of the design team, proto-personas can be developed quickly without the need for extensive user research. However, if we look at the overall need for building personas, the problem of better understanding users is now typically solved with faster iteration and constant discovery.
The agile philosophy has played a major role in the declining popularity of personas. Agile teams tend to be smaller and more specific, with a single UX designer on each team. This makes the use of personas less relevant, as communication and collaboration within smaller teams can be more streamlined. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of agile development prioritizes building and testing quickly over the accuracy and quality of results.
With faster iteration comes faster discovery. With faster discovery, personas no longer add much value.