Let’s face it–it’s easy to forget that people who use our products are individuals.
Since the projects that Lydia and I work on affect thousands of individuals, it’s all too easy to simply see them as these entities, or these far off beings, that use our products.
We don’t have time to look into the lives of each and every one of our users, so it’s simpler to group them into a mass of faceless individuals.
This, in turn, dehumanizes design.
The method that we use to bring life back to these users is through personas.
In this article, we will teach you everything you need to know on what personas are, how to create persona design layouts, and how to use personas effectively.
If you’d like to use the personas that you see below, you can find them here
What Are Personas? Why Use Them?
Personas are often created by UX researchers and UX designers to characterize what typical users of a product are like, how they act, and how they feel.
Persona profiles help to humanize your design thinking—turning it from designing for “users” into designing for (as an example) Sarah, a 23-year-old journalism graduate from Los Angeles looking for a job at a newspaper company.
Personas should be based on research performed on your users, rather than just what you think users are like.
This is because personas represent your users’ characteristics.
If these characteristics are only based on your guesses, which are ultimately based on your biases, then the personas are just fictional personalities that are an extension of you.
Another thing to keep in mind is that personas are not meant to be taken very literally. Just because your persona, Sarah, is very outgoing, it doesn’t mean all your users will be this way.
Personas are a framework to think about your users, not a literal translation of all your users.
You can have one, two, or even more personas. The choice really depends on the scope of what you’re doing, which we will talk about next.
Scope of Personas
Personas can be used for different purposes.
For example, you may make user personas that have a specific goal in mind when using your product.
On the other hand, your personas may simply describe what users are like in their environment, their everyday lives, or at their work.
The great thing about personas is that there is flexibility to make them according to what you need.
It might even make sense to create your initial personas before having formal research completed.
The benefit of this is so that you have a basic framework of your users in mind from the very beginning.
However, these personas may be flawed due to not having the full extent of research behind them.
If you take this route, be sure to update/fix these personas as you gather information on your users, because there WILL be assumptions you made incorrectly at the beginning.
Steps on Making Personas
1. Interview Users
Since personas are based on research, you must first talk to your users. Laura Francois has a great list of six core questions to ask during interviews (if you don’t have an existing product, you can ask about a competitor’s product that they use instead):
- When did the user first sign up for your product?
- What were the events that lead to this person to create an account?
- What situation led to their satisfaction/dissatisfaction/indifference with their experience?
- When did they “switch” (when they stop using one thing and begin to use another) and what led them to switch?
- What were the forces of progress towards needing/wanting to use your product?
- What were the deterrents (anxieties/habits)?
2. Find the Patterns
After interviewing oh so many users, you start seeing patterns. These patterns can be behavioral or circumstantial. For example, multiple users might say something along the lines of, “I don’t have a lot of time.” This could become a common characteristic that you use for one of your personas.
3. Group Patterns to Become Personas
Start grouping the patterns you observed from users. These groups will then become the characteristics for your personas.
The number of personas that you create will depend on how many groupings you make. Remember, these groupings of patterns need to be meaningful and different enough from each other to justify having them be separate from each other. For example, a long-time customer is a clear distinction from a curious, window-shopping user.
4. Make a List of Persona Details
The information you put on your personas depend on what you feel is pertinent. I typically see personas that include the character’s name, a brief “about,” their goals, and their pain-points (or frustrations).
However, you can expand what is included to include things like their current feelings/thoughts, a typical quote they might give, their tech knowledge, preferences, personality, habits, job title, relationship status (e.g. married), location, and income status.
5. Fill in the Information
Now that you have the number of personas you’ll be making and what details you want in each, it’s time to fill in the characteristics of each persona.
6. Make it Pretty
Now you can design the colors, typefaces, font sizes, images, etc. If you’re looking to use free stock photos, we recommend using www.pexels.com (this is what we use). If you want to use a persona template, you can use ours here.
6. Create a Wireframe of Your Persona Design
Your persona design layout should be consistent across all personas. This makes them easier to read for not just yourself, but anyone else you might be sharing these personas with. Deciding the structure/layout of your persona before the colors, typefaces, font-sizes, etc. will keep you focused on making sure that the persona is overall readable and clear.
Share Your Personas
If you work with non-designers, like product owners, managers, or developers, you may want to share these awesome personas you created to help them have a framework of what users are like.
That’s what we’ve done as UX designers because we believe that knowledge is power, and knowledge of who you’re creating, designing, developing, planning, etc. for will make for a better user experience in the end.
And if you don’t normally talk to non-designers, this will be a good way to introduce yourself and show what you do!
In preparation for this article, we worked hard on designing multiple persona templates for you all!
If you’re looking for a free, bare-bones (but nice!) persona template, you can find it below.
If you want more variety, detail, or visual appeal, you can find our paid versions below.
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