User personas in UX design are fictional characters representing an audience interacting with a product or service. They are used to create empathy, facilitate understanding and improve the design process.
Non-human personas can represent various audiences, including pets, machines, and even virtual assistants. They are handy in industries where non-human entities are the primary users, such as smart homes, gaming, and automotive design.
What are non-human personas?
A non-human persona is a design tool that helps designers empathize with a particular user group. They provide a way to better understand the needs, preferences, and behaviors of users who are not human but still influential in the experience. These personas are constructed using the same methods as human personas, such as user interviews, surveys, and analytics. However, they may also require additional research and observations to understand their unique characteristics.
Additionally, they help designers better understand how people interact with these non-human entities, so they can create products and services that are more effective and engaging. Think about it: when you interact with a bot or a virtual assistant, smart home, or smart car, you’re not interacting with a person. There are unique challenges and opportunities to that kind of interaction that designers need to consider. For example, you can’t rely on emotional cues or social cues the way you might with a human. On the other side, those non-human personas interact with you and the environment as well, so the design of the environment should take their actions and possible reactions into account to avoid robot apocalypses.
By creating personas representing these non-human entities, designers can better understand the needs and motivations of those interacting with them. They can design products and services that assess the specific context of these interactions, the information people need, and the emotional responses that are likely to come up.
Non-human personas are often used to improve the user experience of products and services. They can provide insights into how a product or service can be more intuitive and user-friendly for non-human users. For example, a smart home application may use a non-human persona to understand the preferences of a pet dog, such as preferred temperature, lighting, and music. This information can then create a customized user experience for the pet. Not mentioning products designed specifically for pets.
Using non-human personas can also help reduce bias in the design process. By considering the needs of non-human users, designers can avoid making assumptions based on human biases or characteristics. This can lead to designs that are more inclusive and accessible to a broader range of users.
Examples of non-human personas
Non-human personas are already used in various industries to improve the user experience.
In the gaming industry, non-human personas are often used to design the behavior of computer-controlled characters. For example, in the game Spore, designers created non-human personas for various creatures that players could make. These personas included preferences for food, habitat, and social interactions.
Smart home applications often use non-human personas to improve the pet user experience. For example, the company Nest developed a non-human persona for a dog named Max. This persona helped the company understand Max’s temperature, lighting, and music preferences. These preferences were then used to create a customized experience for Max alone at home.
In the automotive industry, non-human personas are used to design the user experience for self-driving cars. For example, designers may create non-human personas for different types of passengers, such as a family with children or a solo commuter. These personas help designers understand the needs and preferences of other users and can inform the design of the car’s interior and features.
🦄 Types of non-human personas
Several types of non-human personas can be used in UX design, each with their unique characteristics and considerations:
- Pet persona for a smart home app: A persona for a pet dog could include information about the dog’s breed, age, weight, and preferences for temperature, lighting, and music. This persona could create a customized experience for the dog when it’s home alone, such as adjusting the thermostat to the dog’s preferred temperature and playing calming music.
- Robot persona for a manufacturing plant: A persona for a robot used in a manufacturing plant could include information about the robot’s size, speed, and capabilities. This persona could be used to design the layout of the plant and ensure that the robot can navigate the space safely and efficiently.
- Virtual assistant persona for a banking app: A persona for a virtual assistant used in a banking app could include information about the assistant’s tone, language, and areas of expertise. This persona could be used to design the assistant’s responses to user queries, ensuring they are helpful and accurate.
AI non-human personas:
- Bots are automated software programs that perform tasks automatically or respond to user queries. Bots can be used in various contexts, from customer service to e-commerce to gaming. When designing for bots, it’s important to consider the tone of voice, language, and responses the bot will use to communicate with users.
- AI-powered systems – are increasingly used in various contexts, from healthcare to finance to transportation. These systems are designed to use machine learning algorithms to analyze data and make predictions or recommendations. When designing AI-powered systems, it’s important to consider how to communicate the analysis results clearly and understandably.
By using, for example, animals as non-human personas in UX design, brands can create a more engaging and educational user experience.
Here are a few examples of how animals can be used as non-human personas in UX design for ecological products.
Bee persona for a sustainable honey brand
A sustainable honey brand could create a persona for a bee to represent the pollinators that make their product possible. This persona could include information about the bee’s habitat, feeding preferences, and behavior. The brand could then use this persona to create a more engaging and educational user experience for their customers, such as by providing information about the importance of bees in the ecosystem and how to support them.
Penguin persona for an eco-friendly clothing brand
An eco-friendly clothing brand could create a persona for a penguin to represent the impact of climate change on wildlife. This persona could include information about the penguin’s habitat, diet, and breeding patterns. The brand could then use this persona to create a more emotional connection with their customers, such as by highlighting the impact of their sustainable practices on the environment and wildlife.
Sea turtle persona for a sustainable seafood brand
A sustainable seafood brand could create a persona for a sea turtle to represent the impact of overfishing on marine life. This persona could include information about the turtle’s habitat, diet, and migration patterns. The brand could then use this persona to educate their customers about sustainable fishing practices, such as by providing information about how their products are sourced and the impact of different fishing methods on the environment and marine life.
These personas can help to create an emotional connection with customers and inspire them to make more sustainable choices. Additionally, using animals as non-human personas can help to raise awareness about important ecological issues and promote positive changes in behavior.
City navigation products
Using animals as non-human personas in UX design for urban and city navigation products is a creative and fun way to make navigation more engaging and intuitive:
Fox persona for a walking app
A walking app could create a persona for a fox to represent exploring and discovering new places. This persona could include information about the fox’s habitat, movement patterns, and natural behaviors. The app could then use this persona to provide users with personalized walking routes that take them on a journey of discovery, highlighting exciting and unique places to visit along the way.
Owl persona for a night navigation app
A night navigation app could create a persona for an owl to represent seeing in the dark. This persona could include information about the owl’s habitat, vision capabilities, and nocturnal behavior. The app could then use this persona to provide users with directions and information about the city at night, such as by highlighting well-lit streets and landmarks.
Squirrel persona for a bike-sharing app
A bike-sharing app could create a persona for a squirrel to represent quick and efficient movement. This persona could include information about the squirrel’s natural behavior and movement patterns. The app could then use this persona to provide users with the most efficient and convenient bike-sharing routes, highlighting bike-sharing stations and bike lanes.
Using animals as non-human personas in UX design, urban and city navigation products can create a more engaging and intuitive user experience. These personas can help to make navigation more personalized and memorable, creating an emotional connection with users. Additionally, using animals as non-human personas can help to promote sustainability and eco-friendliness, as animals are often associated with the natural environment and the need to protect it.
🦄 Benefits of using non-human personas
There are several benefits to using non-human personas in UX design.
Designing for non-human personas requires designers to think outside of their own experiences and consider the needs and experiences of different users. This can help improve empathy and understanding, leading to more inclusive and user-centered designs.
A better understanding of user needs
Non-human personas can help designers better understand users’ needs interacting with non-human entities. By creating personas that represent these users, designers can gain insights into the unique challenges and opportunities of these interactions, such as the specific contexts in which they are used, and the types of information users need.
Designing for non-human personas can help minimize bias in the design process. By considering the needs of non-human users, designers can avoid making assumptions based on human characteristics or biases, leading to more inclusive and equitable designs accessible to a broader range of users.
Improved efficiency and effectiveness
Non-human personas can help designers create more effective and efficient products and services by considering the unique challenges and opportunities of non-human interactions. By understanding the needs and motivations of users interacting with non-human entities, designers can create more personalized and engaging designs that meet the needs of a broader range of users.
Designing for non-human personas can also lead to innovative new designs and solutions. By exploring these interactions’ unique challenges and opportunities, designers can develop creative and novel approaches to user experience design.
Using non-human personas in UX design can lead to more empathetic, user-centered, and practical designs accessible to a broader range of users. Furthermore, by considering the needs and motivations of users interacting with non-human entities, designers can create innovative and engaging products and services that meet the needs of a rapidly evolving technological landscape.
🦄 Challenges and Considerations
Designing non-human personas can present unique challenges and considerations that designers must consider. Here are a few examples:
Lack of emotional cues
Non-human entities such as bots or virtual assistants lack the emotional cues humans rely on to communicate effectively. As such, designers need to find alternative ways to convey tone, intent, and emotion so that users can understand and respond.
Varied contexts of use
Non-human entities can be used in various contexts, from healthcare to finance to gaming. Therefore, designers need to consider the specific context of use when designing non-human personas to ensure that the personas meet the needs and expectations of users in each context.
Limited interaction capabilities
Non-human entities may have limited capabilities for interaction, which can impact the user experience. Therefore, the technology’s limitations should be taken into account when designing non-human personas to ensure that the personas are designed to maximize the capabilities of the technology.
Designing non-human personas can raise ethical considerations, such as concerns about privacy, transparency, and bias. So the ethical implications of their designs should be considered, and designers need to ensure that their designs do not negatively impact users or society.
Evolution of technology
The field of AI and robotics is rapidly evolving, which means that the capabilities and limitations of non-human entities are constantly changing. Therefore, designers need to stay up-to-date with the latest technological developments and be prepared to adapt their designs as the technology evolves.
These are just a few examples of the challenges and considerations of designing non-human personas in UX design. By considering these factors, designers can create compelling and engaging user experiences that meet users’ needs interacting with non-human entities.
🦄 Best practices
Let’s explore some best approaches for designing non-human personas.
Understand the user context
To design effective non-human personas, designers must understand the context in which they will be used. This includes comprehending the users, their needs, and the specific tasks they will perform. Conduct user research to gain insight into the needs and motivations of users interacting with non-human entities.
Create a personality and voice
Non-human personas should have a distinct personality and voice aligning with the brand, product, or service. Consider the language and tone of voice used and how it can be personalized to the individual user. Ensure that the personality and voice are consistent across all interactions with the non-human entity.
Provide clear communication
Non-human entities may lack the emotional cues humans rely on, so providing clear and concise communication is important. For example, consider using different visual or audio cues to communicate information, such as different colors or tones of voice. In addition, provide feedback to users that are timely and relevant to the task at hand.
Design non-human personas with accessibility in mind, ensuring they are accessible to users with different abilities, such as those who may be visually or hearing impaired. Provide alternative communication options, such as text-based interactions, for users who cannot use voice-based interactions.
Address ethical considerations
Consider the ethical implications of designing non-human personas, such as privacy, transparency, and bias. Ensure that the design does not have negative impacts on users or society as a whole.
Test and iterate
Test the non-human personas with real users and iterate the design based on feedback. Continuously gather feedback and data to identify areas of improvement and adjust the design as needed.
Non-human personas are important in UX design because they allow designers to create compelling user experiences with non-human entities. Non-human characters can take many forms, including bots, virtual assistants, AI-based tools, pets, and animals. Furthermore, they can be designed to meet users’ specific needs and expectations in various contexts.
By creating non-human personas with distinct personalities and voices, providing clear communication, and ethical considerations, designers can create user experiences that meet user needs and are consistent with a brand, product, or service.
However, designers must also consider the unique challenges and considerations associated with creating non-human characters, such as limited interaction options, different contexts of use, and rapidly evolving technologies. By considering these factors and following best practices, designers can create effective and engaging user interfaces with non-human characters.