Up close and Persona with Tijana from UX Research

Tijana Mesterovic came to Germany from Serbia to complete her Masters. She extended her stay by applying to trivago, and being quickly welcomed into the User Research team. In last 12 months, Tijana has made a lot of friends; some real, and some fictional.

Life at trivago: Hi! Thanks for meeting. So, we’re here to talk about Design Personas. To the uninformed, what exactly are they?

Tijana Mesterovic: Personas are a tool and a method used in user-centered design, product development or marketing. Personas are fictional characters that represent the different user types in a specific and concrete way. These representations should be based on qualitative and quantitative user research. The purpose of Personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of key audiences, focusing the attention on peoples’ needs, goals, expectations, pain points, etc. “Design Personas” are not to be confused with marketing segmentation. Personas with their needs can be spread across various marketing segments with different purchasing power. Personas might begin from basic profiles obtained with segmentations, but by the end they are rich with many emotional and behavioural components. This way, a face and a personality is given to the user, and a vast amount of information can be easily shared and digested.

Lat: Wow, deep! When you say qualitative and quantitate research, what data or influences did you take on board to shape these personas?

TM: When it comes to quantitative methods; web analytics data was used to understand the behaviour of our users on the website (clicks, filters, time, device, etc.) and their intent toward trip and hotels (length of stay, destination, stars, price etc.). Cluster analysis was used to obtain the user archetypes from this data. Persona archetypes were further build upon using the information coming from a large-scale user survey. The types of user behaviour discovered in a survey matched the ones from web analytics archetypes, but this time we could understand more about the users’ needs, pain points and travel scenarios as well as their personal interests, social and personal life. Further qualitative research methods were used to get ‘up close and personal’ with our users: in co-design workshops we collected insights and designed with a group of real users that have the travel profiles of our personas, in usability testing we continuously observe and learn how our users interact with the product and what are they need. In addition to the extensive research on the users, we also took the time to understand the employees who will be using personas, and how they see our users and comprehend the data to create a tool that they can use. Final personas were once again validated through clustering the data in A/B test and finally all the data coming from all the different research were categorised using the “meta-analysis”.

Introducing the personas to trivago talents in a workshop

Lat:  How many personas does there need to be?

TM: There is no golden rule on what is the optimal number of personas, and it really depends on the audience and use cases. When it comes to using personas in product and design, too many personas might be difficult to work with and hard to memorise. Too little personas might be overgeneralising and not include enough differences among our users. In trivago, we have many different users that we needed to represent. The main way we obtained the number of personas was based on the results of statistical classification: throughout different clustering of web analytics and survey data we obtained an optimal number of clusters with the highest quality. In addition to this, the final number of clusters we obtained gave the most interpretable results matching the results of qualitative insights.

Lat: Exactly how detailed are you with the personas? Do you even give them names?

TM: Yes, our Personas have names and much more that brings them to life. As people, we are inclined to care about people and not as much about segments, market breakouts or keywords. Thus, personas need to have enough detail that allows us to treat them like a real person, understand them and empathise with. Personas have a name, but also character, interests, goals and pain points. (For example, Bianca might like nature, Emilio is geeky, while Frank still struggles with online bookings, etc.). They have a trip they want to go on, and an ideal hotel they look for. With all these details, you can learn about them and understand them better. The tiny details are what makes the personas alive and living among us.

The personas booklet. Never far away when a decision is to be made!

Lat: So, how did they come to life? And how often do you consult them?

TM: After the extensive work on research and creation of personas together with Alessio Zazzarini, user research lead, our persona story did not end. Actually, it just began. Our team introduced Personas to trivago through series of workshops in which around 100 people from different areas in trivago participated. In the workshops – designers, product owners, developers and many other professionals working in hotel search could learn and get close with the personas. Learning was done interactively and participants of the workshop needed to role-play the personas and see the world through their eyes. This way personas were understood and embraced as real people. In the workshop participants would use our hotel search and evaluate it from the perspective of personas and propose recommendations. This helped generate ideas and recommendations for our product, and grow our user-centred mindset. Currently, personas keep enriching and guiding different projects trivago teams work on, through design sprints, checklists, different workshops, etc. Personas are used in hotel search product development and design and to ensure that we focus our daily work on solving real human problems and needs.

Lat: Truly fascinating! Thanks Tijana!

Lee Jones
Lee Jones

Lee Jones is a Conceptual Copywriter and Employer Branding Specialist at trivago.

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