Too often designers working on new products do so in a vacuum. They are great at developing specifications, requirements and restraints that are imperative to success in the marketplace, but sometimes overlooked is the question of who they are designing for?

The answer, of course, can also make or break a new product. After all, it is end users who pay the bills and their input up front can be extremely valuable.

Beginning this year our Advanced Development team took a step back to adopt a more human-centered design process starting with UX (user experience) persona creation.

That’s not a typo. Persona may not be a familiar word but it has come to mean a fictional character based on research aimed at determining user types and to understand their needs, experiences, behavior and goals.

These aren’t real people but, rather, composite characters developed from collecting information gleaned from studying user attitudes, motivations, goals and pain points. It typically includes, details such as education, lifestyle interests, values, needs, limitations, desires, and patterns of behavior.

The ultimate goal is to fill the gap between technology and consumers by anticipating what they want and need in their product portfolios and to gain technical advantages versus competitors.

IDEO, a California-based global design firm that developed the first manufacturability mouse for Apple and famous for its practice of  human-centered design (HCD), once explained: “When you understand the people you are  trying to reach – and then design from their perspective—not only will you arrive at unexpected answers (but) you’ll come up with ideas they’ll embrace.”

That’s why we are establishing UX user fictional personas. We’re pulling together off-the-record information from real people and their stories by talking to them, and through competitive analysis and market trends to help align our team’s work with their needs and aspirations.

By including user personas in the design process we’re giving our team something they can feel invested in and have ownership over. When team buy-in occurs we can look for trends where our products might be helpful in various situations our customers may encounter as well.

Our No.1 goal is to put the customer in the forefront of our design process as a constant reminder of how our products will be used and envision other applications.

In the end, bringing people and technology together is our vision of the future…and the future is now.