User personas allow digital design teams to focus on who they are designing interfaces for. A user persona is a representation of a typical user that can be integrated into the design process.
The creation of effective personas makes it easier to challenge the designer’s own preconceived ideas of how a user might behave. This is particularly important when the user is from a completely different demographic than the design team.
A typical user persona will cover information such as...
- Name, job title & age: The basics, but helps ground assumptions.
- Description (background): This adds context and helps us think about the user as a real person.
- A quote: This helps us identify their ‘voice’
- Attributes, behaviours & motivations: What makes them who they are, what do they do, what do they need or want?
- Concerns: What don’t they like, what limits their behaviour?
- Typical tasks: What is it that they might try and accomplish?
Photos are also used to put a face to the profile, and it is common for this profile information to be set in a poster. These are often put up in a communal place for the team to view and refer to. These profiles help to maintain focus on the users they describe. UI personas often get confused with marketing personas. Marketing personas are focused on generic information such as age and income brackets, while a UI persona lists specific attributes, allowing project teams to bring users to life.
Why are they important?
Personas help create focus behind digital design. They help us answer questions quickly and avoid adding ‘just in case’ functionality. By allowing us to challenge the research and prioritise requests, they also help avoid the trap of building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use.
A poorly researched persona can undermine a project and often cause conflicting opinions. A good persona has the ability to be an extra member of a project team. They can answer questions, suggest use cases and help direct strategic decisions without even existing.
Personas create a common vocabulary for the project team. The persona’s name is used to represent the attributes embodied by the users, allowing faster discussion and decision making.
How is a persona created?
Personas are created based on research on existing users. This can take the form of interviews, surveys, observations or any combination of the three. From this initial research, patterns are established and user types are grouped together. These personas are grounded in current user behaviour and what are perceived to be likely future requirements. If it’s not possible to allocate the time to spend weeks on the research stage, at the very least an assumption based persona should be created. This can be pulled together rapidly from the existing team and client knowledge. It is better to have an assumed persona than no persona at all.
How can you assess the quality of personas?
A good persona supports design work by being a credible representative of a section of the audience. Here are some tips that will allow you to assess whether your personas are working or if they need more work.
- Their profile is believable — they will be central to the project so it’s important that they are adopted by the project team. If a persona feels plausible and believable, allow the team to begin referring to them in conversation by name.
- You can tell a story about them — when designing, we adopt a persona to start seeing the world around us from the perspective of that person. We should be able to tell credible stories that involve them, from their perspective and from ours.
- The persona keeps evolving — personas represent real people, and as we find out more about people, our opinions can begin to change. In the same way, descriptions of persona’s should be updated regularly to reflect new knowledge about them or the contexts that they operate in. Digital solutions should be checked against the revisions.
- You can role-play as them — the persona should be sufficiently robust that a member of the team can use it to play the part of the persona and be able to answer questions as the persona. Use role-play to explore solutions.
Learn more on audience persona’s
If you would like to learn more on how to create and use audience personas, check out our free webinar. In this session, our Creative Direction Sarah Edwards shares some of her industry-leading knowledge to help you access and engage the customers you want to reach:
- Properly identify your company’s target audience
- Gather information on your audience
- Define persona structures
- Ensure maximum brand awareness and profitability for your marketing strategy
- Use industry-leading skills and tools to access and engage customers
- Use personas and keep them current
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