If you work in marketing or are involved in designing user experiences, you most likely already have some knowledge of user personas. Here’s a recap on what personas are and how important they are in UX design.
What is a Persona?
When working on the prototype interface, it can be beneficial to base the design around a specific user type, but how do you know who that person is and how can you develop an understanding of what features they will find most satisfying. Personas are fictional individuals who represent a real target audience. Developing a persona requires research using surveys and interviews. Overlapping features of the collected data are used to create the persona, representing as full a portion of the audience as possible and removing generalizations.
Working with Personas
Photo by bowie15, 123RF.
Personas create a visual reminder of the needs, desires, and behaviors of a target group. There are five critical components to user personas, and if yours includes all of them, you have an excellent representation of your ideal user:
- User personas should be based on information gathered from interviews with real customers.
- The UX team must be able to use the persona to make practical decisions that improve the design.
- Photos, names, and a realistic narrative describing the personas’ experience with the product will help the design team develop empathy with the target market.
- More than one persona should be used for the design process, and each should be unique, but with a small level of crossover with the others.
- All personas should have ties back to real-world data and observed interactions.
Why Personas Are Important to the UX Design Process
Most UX designers will start with a prototype for someone other than themselves. Personas provide insight into how an audience will use an interface so UX developers can create a front-end design that will be relatively future proofed.
A persona gives designers a view of the user base from different perspectives. They will be able to arrive at decisions that can easily be defended and justified because the persona has been developed from observing users, and users know best. In short, personas keep the designers focused on what the user needs, rather than a design based on their own experiences.
Photoset by bowie15, 123RF.
How to Create A Persona
Creating personas is a detailed process, but we can narrow it down to a few key steps to give you a general idea of how it all goes together.
1. Gather the user data
Every good persona starts by researching the target market’s behaviors, mindsets, and motivations. If a persona is to be an accurate representation of your audience, it must come from a foundation of detailed data gathered from interviews and real-world observation.
The more information you gather, the more influence the personas will have in guiding the design team to an effective solution. Of course, if the budget does not allow for in-depth research, then it is still possible for the team to develop personas from the information they know about the audience.
2. Identify areas where data overlaps
After you have gathered data from different sources, you should look for areas where behavioral patterns overlap. The overlaps are where you will find the foundation for the personas.
3. Create the personas
Persona descriptions should be created around the patterns you observed in step two. A persona’s description should be sufficiently detailed for the designer to understand the audience’s needs with a high level of empathy, but not so complicated that it becomes distracting. Stock photos of real people attached to real-sounding names can also help develop empathy.
Once the personas are in place, it’s time to start designing the UX around their needs. You can significantly speed up the UX prototype persona creation phase by taking advantage of ready-made stock photos and design elements.