Defining User Personas

 
 

What Is A User Persona?

A user persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. A persona is generally based on user research and incorporates the needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns of your target audience. Whether you’re developing a smartphone app or a mobile-responsive website, it’s very important to understand who will be using the product. Knowing your audience will help influence the features and design elements you choose, thus making your product more useful. A persona clarifies who is in your target audience by answering the following questions:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What are the current behavior patterns of my users?
  • What are the needs and goals of my users?

Understanding the needs of your users is vital to developing a successful product. Well-defined personas will enable you to efficiently identify and communicate user needs. Personas will also help you describe the individuals who use your product, which is essential to your overall value proposition.


How Do You Define A User Persona?

Before you create a persona, conduct research to make sure your personas accurately represent your users. After you gather an adequate amount of data, organize the information into persona groups that represent your ideal customers. Remember to focus on the major needs of the most important user groups—you can’t be everything to everyone, nor should you try to be!

Step 1: Add A Header

The header includes a fictional name, image, and quote that summarizes what matters most to the persona as it relates to your product. These features aid in improving memorability, keeping your design team focused on the users they are building the product for.  

Step 2: Add A Demographic Profile

While the name and image can be fictional, demographic details are factual and based on user research. The demographic profile includes four main sections: personal background, professional background, user environment, and psychographics.

  • Personal Background. The personal background includes details such as age, gender, ethnicity, education, persona group (e.g. working moms), and family status (e.g. single, married with children, widowed, etc.).
  • Professional Background. The professional background includes details such as job occupation, income level, and work experience. 
  • User Environment. The user environment represents the physical, social, and technological context of the user. This section is used to answer questions like: What technological devices do users have access to? Do they spend most of their time in a corporate office or a home office? And how often do they collaborate with others? 
  • Psychographics. Psychographics include details such as attitudes, interests, motivations, and pain points. Overall, the demographic profile adds an additional layer of realism to a user persona, boosting empathy when exploring user needs and goals. 

Step 3: Add End Goal(s)

The end goal is the motivating factor that inspires action, and answers the question: what do users want or need to accomplish by using your product? End goals are the main driving forces of your users and determine what the persona wants or needs to fulfill. 

Step 4: Add A Scenario

A scenario is a “day-in-the-life” narrative that describes how a persona would interact with your product in a particular context to achieve his or her end goal(s). The scenario usually defines when, where, and how the narrative takes place. They are typically written from the perspective of the persona and describe use cases that may happen in the future.


Additional Suggestions

Each user persona is typically one page, which requires you to focus on the essential elements. As a rule of thumb, avoid adding extra details that cannot be used to influence the design. If it does not affect the final design or help make any decisions easier: omit it.

Personas are also key to finding ideal customers in real life so you can test and validate your product with real people. Therefore, make sure each persona is specific and realistic: avoid exaggerated caricatures, and include enough detail to help you find real-life representation.


Conclusion

In response to shorter project timelines, personas are the go-to method for rapidly identifying user needs. By using real data to develop archetypical users, teams can design for personas with the confidence that they will also meet the needs of the broader consumer base.

Overall, personas are helpful throughout the entire product development phase: from deciding on which features to have in a prototype, to evaluating the end product. When combined with additional user experience design methods, such as usability testing and task analyses, personas are vital to launching a useful and usable solution.


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