Personas are hypothetical archetypes of potential customers that aim at representing them throughout the design process. They are not real people or average users, but a group of certain users that behave in similar ways and display the key attributes of the social group they represent.
Personas are an extremely useful tool to guide the development of a product or service that meet the user goals, needs, wants and expectations.
In a traditional UCD process, Personas are the outcome of rigorous market and design research with real people, using techniques such as interviews, contextual inquiry, focus groups, surveys. The aim of Personas is to help synthesize the research findings in order to help the design team empathise with the people they are designing for. As Kim Goodwin (2009) points out, Personas are devices that use “storytelling to engage the social and emotional aspects of our brains, which helps each team member either visualise the best product behaviour or see why the recommended design is good” (p.229)
In the Lean UX methods, Personas are created based on assumptions (proto-personas), and then verified against real data.
For Personas to be effective, it is important to separate them in 2 groups: Primary and Secondary Personas.
In the book “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum”, Alan Cooper suggests to design for just one personas as this will result in a more successful product/service. It is possible to have more than one Primary Personas but the less Personas, the easier it is to define an MVP and describe a product/service to a customer.
Based on our practice, we have developed a template, the Persona Canvas, to help defining a User Personas (it is a starting points and will vary according to the product/service to be designed and its domain):
- Demographic details (e.g. name, age, country of residence, salary, etc).
- A photograph or sketch (helps making a Personas more memorable)
- A user statement or behaviour (this should show a Personas attitude)
- Bio (this should include behavioural characteristics and aspiration, culture and background)
- Personality (this template uses the Myers-Briggs type indicators – MBTI)
- Technology Expertise
- Channels (where to reach them)
- Motivations (what motivate a user/what can trigger a behaviour)
- Goals (what a customers requires, expect, desire or would love to have/achieve)
- Pain Points (what frustrates or annoy a customer: e.g. undesired costs, situations, negative emotions and risks)
- Fave Brands, Apps (helps understand what a user like and value)
- Devices and platform they use
- Top reason to use your product/service (helps defining your USP)
- Deal breaker (what will stop users from using your product/service)
- Relationship with your product/service (frequency of use vs value it creates)
Other types of Personas are:
– “User Type”, “Proto-Personas” or “Draft Personas”. They are not the result of extensive research but are based on assumptions of the team and on personal experiences. They are drafts and needs to be validated with research.
– “User-generated Personas”. They are personas made-up by a small group of people belonging to the same segment as the persona created. User-generated personas allow to have access to a lot of information about the user-type without running extensive user research. They are created in design workshops or focus groups.
Personas and Market segmentation are two different techniques that are often perceived as conflicting methods, but they are actually complementary tools that organisations can use to design successful products. Here you can read more about the difference between Market Segmentation and Persona development by Elaine Brechin from Cooper Interaction Design.
Alan Cooper, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, (Indianapolis: Sams, 2004).
Laurel Brenda, Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (London:The MIT Press, 2003).
Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and Dave Cronin, About Face 3 (Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2007)
Kim Goodwin, Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-centered Products and Services (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).