Your place or theirs?
The question of where is best to interview people in order to gather the right information to create quality Personas can be contentious. On the one hand it’s much cheaper to bring people to you and possibly less time consuming, but on the other hand we believe this denies researchers (and ultimately our clients) access to valuable information that can only be gathered by experiencing each participants personal context.
As an example, a colleague and I recently found ourselves sitting in a small lounge, in a small ex-state house, in a small town, surrounded by 3 generations of a blended family. This unique experience embedded a deep sense of the person and their situation in relation to the subject matter of discussion. Interviewing the same person away from that environment would’ve yielded a totally different outcome that would’ve missed a vital link with their partner and a genuine sense of family dynamics in a crowded home.
You could ask questions to obtain similar information at the surface level, but when you only have an hour with someone you have limited time to build such contextual knowledge. You can’t possibly cover the same depth of context as you gain by just being in amongst it. By opening your senses to all that is going on around you take all of this in while focusing the conversation where it needs to go. Later when synthesising the knowledge gained in order to create Personas, you often find the things you’ve absorbed through the experience play an important role in creating Personas that feel real.
Having said all that, this approach does require high personal and organisational commitment that some perhaps aren’t willing to invest. Engaging in people’s lives can be mentally and emotionally taxing, travel is time consuming, and costly, but the level of connection made with people and subsequently the realness able to be embedded in Personas takes these empathy tools to a whole different level and that, makes it all worthwhile.
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