User Personas: What Are They And How To Create One?

User Personas: What Are They And How To Create One?
May 25, 2017 Eoin Smith

When working on a project such as a website, software or an app, it is very important to identify who your typical users are. A User Persona will give you insight into a user’s mental model, their decision-making process and context of usage. This will provide you with a clear understanding of who will ultimately use your product. If your product design process does not consider personas, it may result in loss of time, sales and a negative User Experience.

What are User Personas?

User Personas hold behavioural characteristics that are constructed using data collected from real users. These variables come from user research and are mapped out and clustered to create personas that are well informed and tell the story of a user who will be engaging with your product or service.

Example Persona

Overall, personas remind you of why your customers need your product and aid in driving new business development through segmenting prospects into these persona groups. At a high level, User Personas highlight the motivations, goals, frustrations, personality and technology levels which make the personas more real to life. At a lower level, this research model outlines the nitty gritty of what makes them tick especially around their user goals and levels of comfort with technology.

How Can I Create One?

There are two ways to create a User Persona. These are Proto-Personas and Real User Personas.

Proto-Personas are used when you have pre-existing data on customers. One way to find out this information is to talk to your sales and customer care departments to get a good background into the people who have already bought your product. Conduct brief interviews that ask questions about why customers bought the product, the pain points which they may have, their personality traits and recurring job titles. This research may include some data analysis where you need to look at previous transactions to find out popular products, spending habits and industries.

This method is great if your product is already in the marketplace and you have historical data.

If you are launching a product or want to create a persona based on a pre-existing product, there are ways of profiling through user research which creates a Real User Persona.

  1. Conduct user interviews and surveys with people who you think are your target audience and see if there are commonalities that could grow into a persona. Try people watching to experience real life as it happens to see if different variables come into play. Do people act different to what they say they would do?
  2. Talk to attendees at events where similar products are on show. What can they say that is true for your potential customers?
  3. Look at industry-leaders and profile their customers. Look at who they have worked with in the past; are there any telling characteristics that you can glean from them.

After the hard work is done all that is left is to put the information down in one place and iron out the small details.

In Summary

Personas are instrumental in many different ways but for a UX team, it can be the difference between writing content that is fun or corporate, creating a user flow that is two steps or ten, and using a colourful palette to monotones that speak to the right person at the right time. Before you start your next project take some time to create your User Personas and see how they can inform the outcome of your work.

Eoin Smith
Eoin is a UX Programme Manager at Graphic Mint.