User Personas in Design

What is a Persona? Personas are built in the early stages of the design process and they are crucial in guiding a project team throughout the development of a product.

A persona is a hypothetical character, created to simulate real life interactions with a product that is being developed. Such products can be websites, devices, apps, software or even brands.

Building personas is necessary for any consumer research involving a product. By building this hypothetical consumer, the profile of real and potential users helps in the selection of a representative sample of the population for an effective and realistic UX testing session. These personas should be based on both qualitative and quantitative user research and web analytics. Remember, your personas are only as good as the research behind them. Effective personas:

  • Represent a major user group for your website
  • Express and focus on the major needs and expectations of the most important user groups
  • Give a clear picture of the user’s expectations and how they’re likely to use the site
  • Aid in uncovering universal features and functionality
  • Describe real people with backgrounds, goals, and values


When should you start introducing personas?

The time to introduce personas is in the gathering period, just after you have finished with stakeholder workshops, product audit and when usage pattern analysis information is still fresh in everyone’s minds.


How Many Personas Do You Need?

Even though there is no limit to how many personas you are able create, it’s not a matter of the more the merrier. A good rule of thumb is to use around four user personas to get a good understanding of how your target audience is going to act.

The point of the personas isn’t to perfectly predict your audience’s actions, it’s rather to get an idea for how the majority of your audience is going to act – and four personas is the perfect amount to do this. Any extra will end up falling under the category of your original four and even if they provide additional insight, they will often make using user personas a more complicated experience than it needs to be.


Why do you need personas? The benefits

Personas will aid decisions surrounding project components by bringing scenarios of the real world into the conversation. They also provide an efficient and cost effective way to test and prioritise the relevant features throughout the development process. They can can also help:

  • Stakeholders and leaders evaluate new ideas
  • Information architects develop wireframes, interface behaviors, and labeling
  • Designers create the look and theme of the website
  • Developer’s approach based on user patterns
  • Copy writers focus on content for appropriate audiences
  • Company general understanding of who is using the product
  • Develop deeper understanding of customer behaviour and needs
  • Encourage more effective, focused conversations and meetings
  • Aid in better decision making, focused on user needs and goals
  • Generate greater empathy with the customer
  • Enable your design team and project managers to create better products and services


How to create personas

To ensure your personas are accurate representations of your users and have the support of your stakeholders throughout the process, you should:

Conduct user research: Who are your users and why are they using the system? What behaviors, assumptions, and expectations color their view of the system?
Condense the research: Look for themes/characteristics that are specific, relevant, and universal to the system and its users.
Brainstorm: Organise elements into persona groups that represent your target users. Classify each group.
Refine: Combine and prioritise the rough personas. Separate them into primary and secondary categories.
Make them realistic: Develop the appropriate descriptions of each personas background, motivations, and expectations. Don’t include a lot of personal information.


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