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Personas

A Persona is a representative model of a user type based on data from real users. Data must first be gathered from research, such as contextual user interviews and ethnography, and then synthesized into a profile. While a Persona is based on real people, it contains only the behaviors that will help design the product.

Personas are the most misused user experience method – even when they are correctly applied, they are commonly manufactured by UX designers without involving users. Only real quotes and observed behaviors can be used to create a Persona.

Properly-constructed Personas engage our empathy, allowing UX designers to understand their most important users’ goals, requirements, attitudes, pain points, and contexts of product use. They allow the UX designer to ask, “How would this actor behave in this situation?” and are therefore a powerful defense against arbitrary decisions made by business, technology, or even UX.

Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time for Research: 2 – 4 Weeks
  • Time for Persona Construction: 1 – 2 Business Days
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

None

Carry Out This Method

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The following steps are based on those given in Alan Cooper’s “About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design.”

Step One

Collect data on at least six interview subjects per business role or market segment you are targeting. Each of these roles will become a persona.

Step Two

Identify the behavioral variables that are relevant to your product. It is tempting to focus on demographic information like age and income, but behavior matters more.

Step Three

Map interview subjects to behavioral axes based on their behavior. For example, how likely is a user to make a purchase based on price versus feature set?

Step Four

Identify significant behavior patterns. A combination of behaviors is relevant if there is a logical tie between them – see which combinations are most common.

Step Five

Synthesize these behavioral & personal characteristics into one persona. Define what this persona’s goals would be based on observational data. Give your persona a photo and a name for reference and humanization.

Step Six

Make sure the persona you’ve developed includes all the information necessary to educate your design team. Check for any redundancy.

Step Seven

Once all personas have been created, define your primary persona. The UX designer’s job is to satisfy this user’s goals without impacting the ability of secondary personas to fulfill their needs.

Step Eight

Expand each persona’s description to include more detail on their attributes and behaviors. If stories about relationships, problems, and triumphs will inform product design, include a relevant narrative. Fleshing out personas will help cultivate empathy for the users they represent, and make presentations more effective.

The steps as written in About Face are below.

  1. Group interview subjects by business role or market segment if a consumer product*
  2. Identify behavioral variables.
  3. Map interview subjects to behavioral variables.
  4. Identify significant behavior patterns.
  5. Synthesize characteristics and define goals.
  6. Check for completeness and redundancy.
  7. Designate persona types.
  8. Expand the description of attributes and behaviors.
    * Additional text in italics.

Try These Tips

  • Don’t reuse personas. A primary persona for one product can rarely be used as the primary persona for another.
  • Be aware that behaviors can change over time. Another round of user interviews and ethnocentric observations can offer fresh insights.

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