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User personas in user centered design

User personas

In this article I am going to talk about user personas. Personas are indispensable in user centered design. Understand and empathize with our potential users is crucial for the success of our product.

Personas are another tool to promote decisions based in real person's needs, and not for an "undefined user".

What is a persona?

A persona is a fictional description of a target user of the product. It is not an human, is a archetype, described as if they were a real persona.

The description should include details about persona's needs, concerns and goals. Also include background information such us age, gender, behaviors and occupation. A persona does not need to cover every aspect of a real person's life, but rather should focus on those things that will impact in design.

It works because personas tend to be captatived more by instances than by abstractions and generalizations. We need all our team to emphatize with this personas to create more successful products.

User persona

User persona example. Source: Nngroup.com

Benefits of creating user personas

  • First of all, you are not the user. This is the biggest benefit of creating personas, you need to focus on what user needs instead of designing for you.
  • Also, you will centralize your decisions based on this personas instead of being in focus groups and make decisions based on intuition.
  • This centralization will create a common language for all of people in the organization.
  • Finally, personas support user centered design. Today, we need to design for users, not only for customers.

Persona creation process

The best guideline is "create personas as early as possible". Of course, personas must be created and based in user research.

Ideally, the persona creation should be a part of the user research, before the mockup process starts. Some studies such us surveys, interviews and other methods of user research should be conducted before the definition of characteristics.

It is necessary to be done by a team, because it gains more support for the use of personas from team members able to contribute the process.

To initiate, start identifying characteristics of users observed from user research activities. Group these attributes into clusters to begin forming clear characters. Once distinct roles emerge, add details to make character more realistic, memorable and reliable.

The following are common pieces of information in personas:

  • Name.
  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Photo.
  • Description of what they do in real life.
  • Experience level in the area of your service/product.
  • Context for how they would interact with your product.
  • Goals and needs when they perform relevant tasks.
  • Resume of persona attitude.

Avoid adding unnecessary details that do not have relation with the design . Although name and photo are irrelevant, they add memorability, which is the main goal of personas.

Benefits of personas on working products

Making decisions are the primary use of personas. If you are working in an agency or consultants, personas provide a way to describe the target audience of a product or service. Once design is finished, personas can be used as a guide for expert reviews.

Recruiting participants for usability studies can also be made with persona if you consider personas like templates for prospective recruits.

Finally, you can use personas to segment analytics data, to evaluate behavior of real users.