Without this, user research becomes a timewaste


Personas are used to bridge the gap between research and actual product. Personas are fictitious, yet realistic and detailed descriptions of the users of a product. From the user research, it will be possible to make out some patterns and trends like there are a lot of people who belong to this age bracket, income group, geographical locations. There will be a lot of people who show a specific kind of habit and usage pattern. Take these usage patterns and create a profile of a fictitious person who represents real people who show a particular pattern or behaviour.

Personas are particularly useful for bigger projects and targets a large audience.

Instead of using the term “the user” persona gives a personality to a user group which in turn helps in discussions. Example, you may be able to ask in the discussions, “will this mobile alert feature help Sophie”

Personas are “north star that you can point towards whenever the discussions start veering towards personal opinions”

“Personas should be based on data.”

Jamal Nichols, Independent UX Designer | Founder at Truth About Design

Everyone will have different opinion about the user. When we create an app/website or software, the term user and its definition get stretched in all sorts of directions. Common user understanding without research includes – Old vs Young, Novice vs Expert, Professional vs college student, male vs female. While personas make users concrete with behavioural, demographic and environmental backgrounds and attributes and helps in creating a consistent interface.

Persona creating exercise help bring all the stakeholders into the picture. So, at any time, later down the project path, if someone says, honestly, I don’t like this colour, you as a designer, let’s say, can tell him that “I don’t like this colour either, but remember the persona we all together created, – Mathew, and the group of users he represents, this colour represents an effective way to reach them.” So cocreating personas with business leaders will help get things done effectively.

What do they include

  1. A name and a photo
  2. Demographic information
  3. Goals and needs & pain points
  4. Preferences
  5. Environment of use
  6. And whatever else is important

How to create personas

Traditional way: Take the data from online research, website analytics, user interviews, Intuition and condense the findings into personas with names.

In a resource crunch environment, the lean UX way: Take the data from online research, intuition, Web analytics and then condense the findings into personas with names. This way is not as good as the traditional way of creating personas but still these personas serve as foundations to focus your minds on while designing the product. These personas are based on lot of assumptions, which can be verified as more data is collected and recruit users based on these assumption personas.

In the lean UX persona creation, you sit down with the team members after the research is done, and everyone makes a set of personas. Stick them on a wall. Identify the similar personas, combine them and find only the unique personas and derive features out of it.

Identifying the behavioural variables

Activities: What the user does, frequency and volume
Attitudes: How the user thinks about the product domain and technology
Aptitudes: What education and training the user has and his ability to learn.
Motivations: Why the user is engaged in the product domain
Skills: Users abilities related to the domain and technology

After personas are created, draw a spectrum of skills from Novice to expert and people in between. And map the personas to their respective position along the spectrum.

Dangers with personas

They quickly devolve into stereotypes. Don’t let yourself or the team to focus too much on demographics or photo. This might lead to stereotyping the personas. While creating an accounting software, don’t let yourself entering information into personas like ‘John likes fishing and hiking during weekends’. Information like these, do not have any direct impact on what is being designed. Avoid stereotypes like dumb blonde etc.


So, focus more on the personas goals and motivations and what’s going on through their minds, their pain points and how they are solving the pain points currently. Always keep relevant information in the persona that directly impacts the product and its features.

Referenced books:

Experience Required: How to Become a UX Leader Regardless of Your Role:
Robert Hoekman Jr.

Our take: This is an excellent video that gives you an overview of personas and how it influences the design choices. The speaker uses several real project examples to better explain the key points. However, we personally feel that if had come up with an entire process of unearthing the personas from research through an example, it would have added value. Also, the speaker could have at least touched upon the fact of deriving features corresponding to each persona. That also would have added value to the audience. But overall, to have an overall understanding about persona, especially for beginners this video is very useful.

Featured Speaker

Jamal Nichols, Independent UX Designer | Founder at Truth About Design

German-American Design leader, mentor, and champion. The unique perspective I bring to your businessis based on my unique background: because I’m a mix of very disparate cultures, I connect subjects thatother designers aren’t able to connect as easily.