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UX Persona — The Introduction

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

[per-soh-nuh], plural personae or personas

Depiction of Persona image @shutterstock
Depiction of Persona @shutterstock
In ancient Latin the word persona meant “mask.” The word also can refer to a character played by an actor. While a persona is not considered a lie or a falsehood, its meaning implies that it is only part of the truth. Like all masks, there is “real” person beneath. Often a performer will take on a persona to express certain parts of himself: the rapper Eminem also goes by the name Slim Shady to express his darker self.

What is a UX persona in Introduction?

Personas are imaginary, yet realistic & detailed descriptions of the actual users of your product. They provide a basis for design discussions by concentrating on many sources (1) of user data into key focused, believable descriptions of your primary audience.

(1) Personas are created from collective information of heuristics, market research and usage analytic in order to focus future design and development efforts

Personas gives the team a user centered way of describing the real users of the product. It eliminates the vague identification of the audience as “the users”. To focus on some set characteristics with specific attributes means that product development takes those persona’s needs (goals, pain points and frustration) into account.

It is very crucial to get a buy in from the entire team on the concept of personas. The easiest way to ensure everyone agree on the key attributes is to get each one of them are involved in creation of the personas. The entire team includes client stakeholders participating in the brainstorming and focus group sessions along with the actual users. Persona also proves to be an effective tool in representing users in situations where users cannot be available (2). They guide the team in approaching solutions in a humane manner during the process of building a product or service.

(2) Proto personas are created on account of unavailability of the actual users during the early stages of user experience research. Unlike the standard persona, proto-personas are based on the assumptions of the stakeholders, and need to be verified against actual field research. Proto personas should not be replacement for a proper persona study, but should be used in conjunction with one. The proto-persona should serve as a benchmark in the UX process that produces a solid artifact to measure against the field research.

Now, how can just a few fake people be sufficient for designing a whole product?

The personas created are highly representative to a selected key users and their value is in the focus they provide to the entire team. Persona emphasises on delivering high value to the customers, then building numerous features to all the audience, thus streamlining product with a consistent message.

One of the interesting fact about persona-based design is that, although persona focuses on designing for a couple of key individuals, the vast majority of your user base is likely to share the same needs, or at least be able to work with the same features. Listing down clear focus on the requirements of a small group of users, team actually builds a better product for all your users.

Take Away about UX Personas:

  • Provides a direction and basis for design discussions

  • Describes, to whom a team is building for (Rather than saying, the user)

  • Focus on specific attributes of actual users

  • Emphasise on delivering value to the usersNeed the whole team’s input and buy-in

When to start persona creation?

You can create personas at any point of time during the development process, but the earlier you begin, the more benefit you will receive from the focus the personas provide. The best time to introduce personas is around initial requirement gathering period, just after you have finished with stakeholder workshops, product audit and usage pattern analysis information is still fresh in team members’ minds.

Benefits of personas

Personas are essential for:

  • Ideation

  • Scenario creation

  • Prototype development

  • Identify correct user types for prototype usability testing.

Personas gives everyone on the team a common vocabulary (3) for describing the users. As a result, decision making becomes easier, resulting into more focused design of the product.

(3) Common vocabulary means that team members can use the personas name as a kind of short hand to describe a set of attributes, desires, and behaviours.

The attributes, desires, and behaviours are so well defined that by using the personas name everyone in the conversation immediately knows how that persona might respond to the interface the team is developing. In fact, it is a sign that your personas are successful when team members start using the personas names in their everyday conversations about the product.

For instance, saying, “Yes, George would want it to behave like that.”

Having clearly stated persona attributes also helps in decision making. You might be wondering how important each of a set of new potential features would be to your users. It’s easy to take what you know about your personas and use that as a way of prioritising the different features.

If personas are clearly defined, everyone on the team should be able to agree about which features will provide the most benefit and value for those personas, and so. Building a product for a set of well defined personas means it will have a focus that would be lacking otherwise. The focus is important, because it makes sure the interface behaves consistently, uses common metaphors, doesn’t jump between being aimed at novices and experts, and doesn’t include just in case features.

Having a defined group of target users means that just in case features are easier to remove from the priority list. The ability to streamline the product alone is worth the small investment in creation of personas. Even though all user may not match your persona description, but they will all appreciate the cleaner design that persona focused development allows you to create.

Take Away about benefits of Personas:

  • Successful personas is used in everyday product conversation.

  • Having clearly stated persona attributes also helps in decision making.

  • Having a defined group of target helps eradicate the just in case features from the priority list.

  • Users outside your persona description will benefit from a consistently designed product.

Now, you would be definitely having many questions like

  • How do you create a perfect Personas?

  • How much information should be included in a Persona?

  • How do you gather information for building a Persona?

  • What do you mean by Proto, Provisional and Data-driven Personas?

  • How effective and useful Personas are?

  • How many Personas do you actually need?

  • What is a life time of a Persona?

  • How to keep them relevant during the design process?

  • Case study of Persona driven design?

We would be happy to answer these questions in our next post and invite you to add more questions in the bucket list. Thanks for reading.


Prashant A and Kishan Salian

Published in:

It is just published in Medium under DesignImpacts.

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