Jobs To Be Done vs. Personas

Last year at while working on product updates to AVVAY, one question kept bouncing around in my head; had Jobs to be Done made personas obsolete?

What is Jobs to be Done?

"Jobs to be Done" is a framework that's gained in popularity the past couple of years in the product design space. It attempts to move us closer to thinking in a user-centered way about designing products. It also puts forth a handful of newer ideas about product design. The most interesting concept put forth by this framework is that your customers not only "hire" your product or service to fulfill a need they have but they also use it for a purpose that perhaps you never intended when designing it. A good way of thinking about this concept is the classic Henry Ford quote;

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

The job to be done then was the need for customers to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. Not really the specific way they got from there and not even the form of transportation.

This framework recommends that product teams conduct user research studies and write up a list of these jobs to be done so they have them as a reference for what they should build.

If they can identify what the underlying need is, they can design something that fulfills that need. This would be a better approach if you were simply focusing on features, demographics or specific types of users. Based on this, some designers could express the idea that Jobs To Be Done are a better input for design than going by demographics and personas.

Working with Personas

Well crafted personas aren't solely focused on demographics because demographics alone don't tell us much about user behavior. If you think about it, good personas don't actually need much demographic information at all. They should be all about a customer's needs, goals, expectations, behaviors, and attitudes. It's very similar to the type of information that Jobs to be Done can tell us. They can also assist us in empathizing with our customers. They help designers to balance the needs of different users. Not every customer will have the same goals and expectations for the product so personas can help weigh competing factors and prioritize different user needs effectively.

Personas and JTBD Sitting in a Tree

I believe personas and Jobs to be Done are complimentary to each other. At AVVAY we have used both. Our customers consist of a wide range of creative professionals booking our spaces for uses both inside and outside of what we originally intended for the marketplace to solve. Each customer also has a set of unique attributes that construct their persona which in turn informs the way we design our products. These personas also give us a lot of additional detail about needs and goals while promoting empathy for our users.

Jobs to be Done is just another tool in a designer's toolbox. They're like personas in that they help us focus on creating useful products that meet our users' needs.

July 4, 2019