Personas are commonly used within UX and any customer-centric design. A user persona is a representation of a typical user that can be integrated into the design process. For a quick introduction to personas, check out our user persona article.
When done well, personas are a useful tool to support decision-making, guide user-centric outputs and empower teams with an understanding of their users. However, not all personas are made equal. All too often, we see personas either not being used or not created in ways to maximise their full potential. We’ve outlined our eight tips below on how to ensure your personas deliver value and gain uptake as a useful tool in your organisation.
1. Define a clear set of objectives
Defining a clear set of objectives should be done before you begin the persona development process. It’s important to be clear on why you are creating the personas and what you aim to achieve by doing so. Setting clear objectives will help to guide the information that you collect and how you structure your presonas to ensure they are fit for purpose.
2. Avoid being overly generic
A common mistake is creating personas that are too broad. This can mean designing a singular persona when in reality an organisation, or specific product, will typically have multiple user types. The issue here is twofold – first, the information will be far too generic to offer real insight, and second, it does not reflect any singular user type effectively. At Make it Clear, we always conduct an audience definition exercise prior to persona development. This activity is conducted with stakeholders in a workshop setting to document all user types and prioritise them. This helps to guide research activities and provide a baseline understanding of the different user groups.
3. Avoid creating too many personas
Creating multiple personas ensures that they are more reflective of real users, who can often have different goals, needs and pain points. Creating too many personas can also cause challenges, however. Having a large number can make decision-making using personas too difficult. It can also be simply too hard to remember all of the personas and keep them in mind during UX processes. As a rule of thumb we typically suggest three, and no more than six. If you must have more personas, we suggest adding a weighting to each to define which are the highest priority.
4. Base insights on research with real users
An integral part of creating personas that are valuable tools is conducting research directly with users. This will ensure that this isn’t built on assumptions and provide more rigorous insight. This alone can help encourage buy-in and uptake across teams.
However, we understand that gaining access to users may not always be simple. If you are unable to gain direct contact with your users, consider alternatives such as: web surveys, Google Analytics or interviewing customer-facing employees. Alternatively, you could also consider creating proto-personas (personas created based on stakeholder assumption). This can be done by conducting workshops with different teams that have user-facing roles. The proto-personas should then be built on as you learn more about your users.
5. Tailor your structure
Presenting the information in a useful way is also important to ensure that insights are easily understood and usable. For example, if you represent attributes using a scale, try to define what a ⅖ or a ⅘ represents to ensure that you apply this consistently to each persona that you create.
7. Onboard and present them to your team
Present your personas to other teams and any new starters as part of the onboarding process. Ensure that your personas are easily accessed through visibility in office spaces and easy access in online hubs or intranets where other brand assets are stored. Be an advocate for embedding their use into your product development workflows.
8. Review and audit your personas
Finally, it may seem obvious, but ensuring your personas are up to date and remain relevant is key to continued and effective use. Take time to periodically review your persona set with user-facing colleagues to discuss whether the persona type and information contained is still reflective of your use or customer base. Where required, conduct additional research with users and update.
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