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Below is an excerpt from "The Inmates are Running the Asylum", 1998, by Alan Cooper. The excerpt is from chapter 9, from the section called "Be Specific".

Be Specific

The more specific we make our personas, the more effective they are as design tools. That's because personas lose elasticity as they become specific. For example, we don't just say that Emilee uses business software. We say that Emilee uses WordPerfect version 5.1 to write letters to Gramma. We don't just let Emilee drive to work. We give her a dark blue 1991 Toyota Camry, with a gray plastic kid's seat strapped onto the back and an ugly scrape on the rear bumper. We don't just let Emilee go to work. We give her a job as a new-accounts clerck in a beige cubicle at Global Airways in Memphis, Tennessee. This disticnctive specificity is very powerful as a design and communications tool .Consequently, all of our personas are articulated with singular detail and precision.

As we isolate emilee with specific, idiosyncratic detail, a remarkable thing happens: She becomes a real person in the minds of the designers and programmers. We can refer to her by name, and she assumes a tangible solidity that puts all of our design assumptions in perspective. As she loses her elasticity, we can identify her skills, her motivations, and what she wants to achieve.

changed August 17, 2015