A great user experience is paramount to any mobile application.
After all, nobody likes an application that is horrible to navigate, right? A deep understanding of one’s target audience is mission-critical to creating an exceptional user experience (UX).
One way to derive this desired deep understanding is by modelling user personas that help product teams understand target users’ expectations, concerns, and motivations.
This consequently helps UX designers to establish a stronger user focus and serves as a constant reminder of whom they are and are not designing for.
What is a user persona in UX?
A user persona is fundamentally a fictitious and specific representation of target users. The central goal of user persona is to help the user interface (UI) design and development teams to better understand the users and improve their products.
User personas are primarily a collection of realistic representations of different real-world user characters.
For instance, the target user of a video game could be boys aged between 10-15 years. So, the ideal persona could be designed around 11,12, 13 or 14, 15-year-old boys. In summary, a user persona should always mirror a group of real-world users.
Secondly, user personas are, for the most part, imaginary. For instance, a user persona’s name, photo and social attributes are mostly fictitious. This is because these attributes don’t have a considerable impact on the interface design process.
In a nutshell, a persona is a virtual person created by the UX researchers from refined information extracted from real life, constituting details like a job title, educational background, etc.
Types of personas
Personas are categorised into four main types:
1. Goal-directed Personas: These personas focus on examining the process and workflow that a prospective user might prefer to employ to achieve their goals when interacting with your product or service.
2. Fictional Personas: Fictional personas emerge from the past experiences of a UX team with the user base and products to deliver an informed picture of what typical users look like.
3. Role-Based Personas: Role-based personas are goal-directed and also focus on user behaviour and role in an organisation. They are massively data-driven and integrate data from qualitative and quantitative sources.
4. Engaging personas: Engaging personas integrate goal, role-directed personas, and traditional rounded personas. They are designed so that the designers who employ them become more engaged with them.
Why are user personas important?
Personas are a well-established “interaction design technique” in user experience research. They help product managers, UX designers and developers decide on product/user requirements, interaction patterns, and presentational design.
As fictional characters embodying common characteristics of the different prospective user groups, personas help explain the end users’ “attitudes towards a product” in relation to their daily lives.
For example, they help explain how users might respond to, or interact with the new system, thus eliciting key requirements for the system developers.
Overall, personas help product designers and developers to understand:
- What would motivate users to employ a product/ service.
- The needs of the user to employ a product/ service.
- The pain points of the user while using a product/ service.
- The primary goals the user wants to achieve through a product or service.
- The behavioural and emotional states of the users in different situations.
User personas help UX researchers to ask the right questions and answer them while proposing possible interventions and preventing common design pitfalls like:
- Self-referential design: When UX designers or UX engineers design like they’re building the product only for themselves. Yet the target audience is quite unlike them.
- Design for elastic users: When product decisions are made by disparate stakeholders who define the ‘user’ according to their convenience.
What should be included in a UX persona?
Personas are fictional characters in the user-centred design process. Therefore, their creation dictates exploratory research to realistically represent the different user types that might employ a service, product, or website.
Though it’s relatively straightforward to select a set of user characteristics to form a persona, it’s challenging to create user personas that are effective design and communication tools.
An effective persona that helps product designers and developers fully understand users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals typically demonstrates several characteristics like:
- Not being composed of fictional guesses at what a target user thinks. In actuality, every aspect of the persona’s description should be tied back to real data (observed and researched, this could be from user research such as user interview insights or survey studies data).
- Reflecting real user patterns, not only different user roles.
- Being context-specific, with a focus on the behaviours and goals related to the particular domain of a product.
Steps to create a user persona
The following are some basic steps required to create a user persona:
1. Collect user information (through qualitative and quantitative user research)
Effective personas are derived from a large amount of user data. Thus, before the creation of a persona, one has to extract user insights or data via observations or interviews.
Product developers can also solicit data from reliable third parties, like user research agencies, to provide user data, as gathering user data directly from target users can be time-consuming.
In this initial step, it’s imperative to avoid generating user personas of users that don’t have any relation to the actual target user’s reality.
Remember that entirely fictional/imaginary people who aren’t based on research bring no value to the design process.
In fact, they bring harm as poorly constructed personas can easily undermine the product’s usability.
2. Analyse the research findings
The fundamental premise of this step is to identify patterns in user research data in order to effectively group similar people into types of users.
To achieve this, ensure to list all the behavioural variables (ways in which users’ behaviour differs), then map each interviewee against the appropriate set of variables.
Afterwards, identify actionable trends by clustering across six or eight variables to derive group trends that will form the basis of each persona.
3. Decide on the number of personas you want to create
In the next phase, it’s important to decide on the number of personas you seek to create.
To achieve this, find out related user categories for the product, according to a set of tasks, job descriptions or other external factors related to their interactions with the product.
It is easy for product teams to create too many personas with many overlapping user needs, so it is a good idea to streamline this persona creation process a few times to ensure that the personas you are going to create are distinctive from each other. Having too many personas with overlapping needs can become confusing for the product team when designing.
4. Create persona descriptions based on behavioural patterns
During this phase, assemble a persona’s descriptions around behavioural patterns to describe each in a manner that expresses an extensive understanding and empathy towards users.
In this stage, avoid the temptation to add many personal details as personas only need to be realistic, not real, as long as they accurately characterise the user base.
5. Create scenarios to integrate the personas
User personas have no value on their own and are only valuable when tied up to a scenario.
In practice, a scenario is an imagined situation describing how a persona will interact with a product in a particular context in order to achieve its objective.
Scenarios enable UX designers to understand the main user flows to gather requirements and create design solutions. Fundamentally, scenarios should be written at a high level from the persona’s perspective and articulate use cases that will most likely happen.
6. Document the personas
Ensure to thoroughly document the persona when designing a user persona template. In fact, ensure to always include information like the persona’s name, photo, gender, age, location, marital status, goals, pain points, and behaviours.
7. Share your UX personas
Ensure to share your personas among stakeholders so that they have a positive association with personas and realise the value in them.
Remember that a well-constructed persona almost becomes another member of the design team.
User persona examples
Since personas are documents that describe the overall attributes, motivations, and frustrations of a user, you need to conduct enough user interviews to paint a clear picture of a prototypical user.
If the prospective users of a product distinctly vary, then create multiple personas. For example:
Mary: The Homemaker
- Age: 38
- Gender: Female
- Marital status: Married
- Children: Two boys, ages 5 and 9
- Occupation: Stay-at-home mother
- Education: Associate’s degree
- Location: Joplin, Missouri
- Influencers: Oprah, Church leaders
- Sources of information: Blogs, YouTube, Facebook groups, T.V., radio
- Goals: To stay on budget
- Frustrations: Juggling many tasks
- Aspirations: Desires for her family, friends, and church acquaintances to see her as a successful homemaker.
John: Business Class
- Age: 40
- Gender: Male
- Marital status: Unmarried
- Children: None
- Occupation: Business Manager
- Education: Executive MBA
- Income: $120,000/year
- Location: Los Angeles– travels all over the U.S. and South East Asia
- Influencers: Elon Musk, Aaron Ross, Steve Jobs
- Sources of information: The Wall Street Journal, tech blogs, sales blogs.
- Goals: To earn enough money to have a comfortable retirement.
All things considered, critically understanding the needs of prospective users is mission-critical to developing a successful product.
Descriptive user personas enable designers to efficiently identify and communicate user needs, which is essential to the product’s overall value proposition.
Furthermore, user personas help UX designers decide which features to maintain in a prototype whilst iteratively evaluating the end product.
Additionally, user personas help stakeholders to build empathy with users and their needs, and as a result, everyone working on the product could align their design decision-making by having the same understanding of the persona. And when combined with other UX research methods, like usability testing, personas help to launch a useful and usable solution.
To know more about user research and creating personas for your project, talk to our UX consultants at Netizen Experience.