Cover photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash
A persona, in user-centered design and marketing is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. Marketers may use personas together with market segmentation, where the qualitative personas are constructed to be representative of specific segments. — Wikipedia
A user persona is a way to create a board that explains minute details about the user who would potentially use the product as a stakeholder. The user participating in the user persona is imaginary, with characteristics persisting in our real target audience.
User persona usually consists of the following things - name, family status, educational background, professional background, environment conditions, psychographics, his likes, and dislikes, needs, and pain points.
The primary goal of creating a user persona is to understand the needs, behavior, and goals. It's a way for a UX designer to step into his stakeholder's shoes and understand what he feels about certain things.
Once a great man said,
Great designers don't fall in love with their solution. Great designers fall in love with the problem. — Jared Spool
Deriving from that, creating the user persona is the best way to understand the user's pain points and problems. Best solutions are obtained by keeping the user's needs at the core. User personas are created based on substantial research, unifying qualities, and pain points of the target audience.
Usually, there is one persona for every type of user in the system. For example - let's say we are designing a system for connecting mentors with mentees, and there's an onboarding process for mentors that would be accessible to moderators. So in this scenario, we'd be having three types of user personas, mentor, mentee, and moderator. That would help us step in the shoes of every user who would use the platform. Before creating the user persona, it is mandatory to have a clear vision about the product's future; otherwise, it would potentially affect our user base.
To create a user persona, it involves many steps and collaboration of multiple research factors. Here are a handful of strategies to create meaningful and comprehensive user research.
- User research - once we define the target audience, the next step is to reach out to them with the set of questionnaires. Prepare for open-ended interactive questions, and interview the audience until you start listening to repetitive answers to your questions.
- Find characteristics - Through the user interviews, we get quantitative data, and the later stage is to create qualitative data.
- Find pain points - Establishing characteristics would help us find the common factors amongst the audience. But once we search for the pain points, unify, then we get a bigger picture of the problem we are trying to solve.
- There are a couple of more factors that we can consider while we establish a user persona, such as their needs, goals, and personality. Combining them in a user persona creates a comprehensive picture of how the end-user would look like.
Now, we established a pretty decent idea about the user personas, so let's discuss a couple of advantages of creating user personas,
- Showcasing the audience - User personas are a great way of showcasing the basics about the audience. Such as gender, age, occupation, location specifics, etc. Using which, any person without prior knowledge of UX design can understand the audience.
- Understanding the behavior - User personas are a great way to showcase the patterns and behavior of our audience. For example - A user persona of a shopper would showcase where he likes to shop, how he wants to buy. How much he spends on one spree.
- Gain empathy about the user - Human is a self-centered living organism. We tend to care about ourselves before caring about others. While creating a user persona, we focus on the user's problems and needs. We focus on how we can solve their problems rather than assumptions.
- Appropriate decision-making - I won't say we would make the right decisions all the time while designing a product. Sometimes things might go wrong. But, with the help of comprehensive user research and detailed user persona, we would be able to make sure there's less possibility of things going wrong. Every decision made will be made based on the user's needs and pain points.
- Clear discussions and meetings - When it comes to discussing the target audience, it might get time-consuming and confusing to decide in which direction the conversation must go. The meeting can be with subordinates, stakeholders, marketing managers, or even a family person; A user person can act as a mediator to convey meaningful decisions and conduct meaningful conversations.
Personas are distilled essences of real users. With personas, we build empathy with target users, focus on their world, share insights/knowledge with other stakeholders to gain consensus, make defensible decisions reflecting the persona' s/user group's exact needs, and gauge our designs' effectiveness through their eyes. - interaction-design.org
Well, it is straightforward and logical when we have a thorough research. At this stage, we have identified the target audience and have qualitative research statistics. Ideal user personas should be goal-oriented, communicating an imaginary scenario flowing through every aspect of it. Goals would help us make decisions, and the situation would help us maintain the empathy and emotional connection with the target audience.
- Make a strong hypothesis, with the help of initial or secondary research. A hypothesis will help us define a persuasive problem statement.
- Find a scenario - a scenario relating to the product's problem statement.
- Construct useful details about the person who would be participating in the persona. These details have to be imaginary. Create a strong personality that would seem normal and acceptable by everyone.
- Validate our scenario with the imaginary person we just created. Make a strong selling story. Why? Let's say we are designing a platform for online apparel shopping, and the user we described is a 60 years old grandmother living in a small city. This story would make less sense. We just created a couple of loopholes that'd not validate our story.
- Think about common pain points.
- Define his needs and establish if they are satisfied at the moment or not.
- Define user goals - Think about the user's interaction and the things he will need to fulfill his requirements.
- Here's a website which provides good examples of user persons - link
- And, Invision has a comprehensive guide in order to create user personas - link
The above steps will generate a fundamentally strong idea about our target audience, which can be part of any decision. We can convince the stakeholder and investors.
By considering all the factors mentioned above, a user persona makes a bold statement in the design process. Avoiding this step can cause a lot of damage to the decisions we would make. One wrong decision can lead to many failures. When the target audience uses the product, they should feel comfortable and confident. Also, user persona is a friendly interface that can be part of any conversation throughout the process. It's fun, interactive, and helps construct our research. Hence, it should be mandatory to have a user persona as a part of the design journey.