If your user persona includes an image, which type of image helps the team produce designs that are more usable?
The illustration on the left? Or the photo on the right?
According to Frank Long’s research paper, Real or Imaginary: The effectiveness of using personas in product design, photos are better than illustrations. Teams whose user personas include a photograph of the persona produce designs that rate higher when assessed with Nielsen’s heuristics for UI design.
Frank Long compared the design output of three groups, drawn from his students at National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Ireland, in a specific design project. Over the five-week project, two groups used user personas of different formats. One group was the control group, so they worked without user personas. The experiment looked for differences in the heuristic assessments of their designs.
Photos—versus illustrations—are one of the ways I’ve engaged project teams with the user personas that I researched and wrote for them. Here’s a teaser: