Using personas to inform user-centered design is a wonderful technique to ensure that one’s design will satisfy its average user. By trying to stereotype the users of a product, designers can create experiences that appeal to lowest common denominators of their possible user base. Personas are appealing because they can prevent the designer from forgetting the real people who may be using their product. When user analysis is made up of a lot of statistics, actual people seem removed and unreal.
Designers must use personas with caution, especially when design teams come up with personas that are incorrect stereotypes of their users. Personas must be created in-line with user research to prevent this. When photos are used for personas, I am also wary that these stock images will not reproduce racism, sexism, and ageism. Descriptions of personas should not include superfluous information that isn’t related to how they seek information or may use your product, or else one’s assumptions about how people act may take over. Racism and sexism in marketing is rampant, and perhaps this will carry over into user experience. UX design should be sensitive to these issues.