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GuidesUser experience (UX)What are user personas? 5 steps to create your own

What are user personas? 5 steps to create your own

Last updated

7 March 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

User personas are an essential tool in the UX design process. It helps meet your client's expectations and to create an efficient, easy-to-use product that guarantees an all-around user experience. Therefore, it’s important to know several aspects to understand what a persona is and how to create your own. 

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What is a user persona?

A user persona is a fictional representation of an ideal customer. In UX design, user personas represent your understanding of your product's target users in terms of their traits and qualities. This is crucial in designing a product that fits their needs. 

As a UX designer, you should capture your target audience's persona in a document or a presentation deck that provides easily comprehensible visuals. This is referred to as a UX document. It can feature a mixture of text, graphics, icons, and even include facial representations. 

A typical UX persona would include the following information: 

  • The target person's name 

  • Their image (could be a stock image, illustration, or real photo) 

  • Demographic information, such as gender, age, family/ living situation, employment status, and anything relevant to your product and the problem you're trying to solve 

  • Your audience's needs, goals, and relationship with your product 

  • A summary of your target user's challenges, pain points, and frustration in relation to your product and the problem you're solving 

  • Quotes from the user that would represent their persona 

UX designers are not limited to creating a single user persona. They can create multiple UX personas to represent different users. You can also group your users into different personas to represent their traits and qualities. For instance, while creating a savings application or program, you can group your users into 'spenders' and 'savers' to represent their varying spending habits. 

Please note that even if personas are fictional, you should base your information on data and facts about the user. This calls for user research and the incorporation of any behavioral data you may have gathered while designing your product. 

Why are user personas important?

User personas are excellent in growing and improving the UX design process. It helps uncover your users' expectations, concerns, and how they use your products to improve their experience. 

Here are more details on how user persona is crucial in UX design: 

Builds empathy

UX designers must empathize with their product's users to make a product relevant to their needs. User personas help them gain a similar perspective to their users and understand their varying needs and expectations to create an effective product. 

User persona also helps identify a product's target audience. The more a UX designer engages with the user's persona and sees them as a real person, the higher the chances of considering their needs, motivations, and expectations in the design process

Provide direction in the decision-making process

Every step of the UX design process requires sound decision-making. You can only achieve this with a clear understanding of your target users. UX personas help foster user-centered decisions and allow the design team to prioritize features based on the user's needs. 

This also prevents common pitfalls associated with the UX design process, such as self-referential design, in which designers create products meant to solve their own problems instead of their target users. 

It also harmonizes ideas from different design team members, especially when there's a risk of an "elastic user" created by everyone's definition of their ideal user. 

Provides an avenue to communicate research findings

A UX design process involves different team members with varying points of view, expertise, and experience. With UX personas, it's easier to incorporate ideas and expertise and determine the most crucial information about the target users. 

Characteristics of a good persona

A good UX persona should have the following key characteristics: 

  • Header 

  • Demographic profile 

  • End goals 

  • Scenarios 

Here's a breakdown of these characteristics: 

The header should include a fictional name, image, or quote that summarizes what matters most to the target user and their relationship to the product. This helps improve product memorability and keeps the design team focused on the target user. 

Demographic profile

This is factual and real information about the target user. As mentioned earlier, UX designers should consider these aspects in the user research phase. 

There are four main sections that you should focus on while creating a demographic profile: 

  • Personal background: age, ethnicity, education, persona group, and family status  

  • Professional background: job occupation, income level, and work experience

  • User environment: physical, social, and technological context 

  • Psychographics: details such as attitude, pain points, and motivation

End goals

This is the motivation factor that inspires action. It should answer what users need to accomplish while using your product. They are usually the driving forces of the users and determine what the target user wants to fulfill. 

User persona's end goals come with barriers that need to be addressed. Some of the barriers that may limit your users' end goals include: 

  • Technological barriers: These are features that enable a good user experience, such as a secure cloud to store vital information, stable internet access, a program's security features, and compatibility with different computers and phones.  

  • Cultural barriers: These are users' beliefs regarding a particular UX design process. UX designers can address them by creating useful and reliable features that would compel users to adopt the new UX process. 

  • Process barriers: These are the procedures in a UX design process, so a UX designer should create a simple process that users can understand and follow. 

  • People barriers; This is the human resource available for an organization that requires a specific type of program. UX designers can overcome this by training users to follow the UX design process.  

Scenarios

This is a day-in-the-life narrative of how a target user interacts with your product in a particular context to achieve their goals. The scenario usually defines when and where the narrative will take place. That's why it's written from the perspective and language of the user.

Five steps for creating user personas

Now that you understand user persona and its importance, it's time to learn how they're created. 

UX designers can create user personas in many ways and with various methods. Here's a breakdown of 5 major steps for creating user personas: 

Collect information about your users

You need real information about your user to create an effective user persona. Therefore, you must conduct user research to understand your user's motivations, behaviors, and mindsets. 

You can choose between a quantitative or qualitative approach in user research. The best approach, however, is a combination of both. The quantitative approach makes the persona more approachable, while qualitative data makes it more believable. 

In quantitative research, UX designers collect, analyze, identify patterns, and generalize findings about their target users. They can collect the data indirectly through UX research tools, such as Google Analytics, Maze, and Userzoom, or manually by measuring and analyzing the user's UX metrics. 

In qualitative user research, UX designers use research methods like interviews and field studies to collect qualitative data through direct observations of target users. It helps to understand the target users' motivations, thoughts, pains, and goals. 

Identify behavioral patterns from research data

You need to analyze the data collected from your user research to identify your users' behavioral patterns. The goal should be finding patterns and commonalities that allow you to identify with your target audience based on how they behave and interact with your product to solve their pain points. 

Create your UX persona and bring it to life

Based on your initial research and analysis, you should have a general idea of the users you're targeting with your product. This will help you identify how they differ, and create an initial user persona. Some of the features you can use to create an initial user persona are empathy maps and affinity diagrams

You can support or reject your first hypothesis by engaging the project participants and comparing it with your existing knowledge. This requires a mock template outlining your final UX persona's general shape. This template makes it easier to discuss and fill out crucial information about your target audience and bring the persona to life. 

Set up scenarios or situations for your persona

Your UX user persona requires scenarios that describe the situation and solutions to your target users' pain points. Therefore, you must describe several situations that may trigger the need for the service or product you're designing. This is created by placing your target user in a specific context, describing the problem you want to solve with your program or service. 

Share your findings and seek acceptance from your team members

You must decide on a particular UX persona with the acceptance of your team members. It's easier for the participants to air their views as they interact and familiarize themselves with the persona. You can determine whether they deeply understand the persona as part of your team. 

Tips for creating user personas

With the basics of creating a persona out of the way, here is some practical advice that would help you get the most out of this process: 

Don't confuse demographics and persona

People usually think that persona and demographics mean the same thing, but they differ. Demographics refers to aspects such as the gender, race, and income brackets of a target user, while the persona focuses on what makes them who they are. 

Demographics are included as part of the persona's demographic profile, while details about them are included in the scenario. 

Start small, grow big

There are numerous persona templates you can use. Most of them are tempting, especially if you want fast results. However, the best approach is starting with forming a hypothesis about your target audience, discussing it with your team members, and creating a final user persona document representing crucial ideas that will help your UX design process. 

Use real data, not your own ideas

It's essential to utilize real data while creating your persona. Therefore, you should resist the urge to generate random figures. The best way to avoid biases in your information about your target user is to ask clear questions about their goals, expectations, motivations, and needs. 

Talk to your target user in person

A simple user survey can help you accurately capture your target user's persona. You should use this at the initial stages of collecting data from your target audience and when you feel like expanding on what you've built. 

Keep an open mind

The answers that you get from your data collection should not necessarily reflect the expectations of your program or service. That's why you should maintain an open mind to avoid steering away from the real user data and following your own narrative.

Revise and adjust your persona

Your initial users’ data and personas are flexible. You can revise their descriptions regularly and make adjustments that suit your users' expectations. This may affect your UX design process, but it ensures that your users get a product that suits them best.

Conclusion

The use of persona is undoubtedly powerful in the UX design process. When done properly, it makes the process less complicated and can help designers achieve their goals by creating a UX that matches their target users. Following the information provided above, you can rest assured that you will create a persona that guarantees your real user's needs are kept in mind in your UX design process.

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