Personas

Your constantly-updated definition of Personas and collection of topical content and literature

What are Personas?

Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. Creating personas helps the designer to understand users’ needs, experiences, behaviors and goals.

Learn how to use personas to make better designs.

Personas Are More Than “People”

Personas are distilled essences of real users. In user experience (UX) design, you use personas to build empathy with target users and focus on their world. You should always create personas from observations about real users, personas should never be invented out of your assumptions about your users. Because you must map your users’ needs to your design’s functionality, you must first clearly define both the needs and the users.

“Personas are the single most powerful design tool that we use. They are the foundation for all subsequent goal-directed design. Personas allow us to see the scope and nature of the design problem… [They] are the bright light under which we do surgery.”

— Alan Cooper, Software designer, programmer and the “Father of Visual Basic”

As designers, we shape personas iteratively. We divide users into manageable groups and represent each with a typical embodiment – a persona. For instance, for an app that helps students budget, “Amy” represents 18-year-old females who must adapt to college life. Through Amy, we see how our app helps these users in their day-to-day activities. We imagine Amy has just started banking online, lives in shared housing and works weekends. Her goal is to save money. Her scenario: she stretches $70 to cover her week’s groceries.

Create Effective Personas

Personas are deliverables in design thinking’s Define phase. As they’ve extremely helpful in ideation, they should feature early in design processes. To create them, you:

  1. Collect extensive data on target users.
  2. Determine the qualities of and differences between users.
  3. Develop a hypothesis from the research, determining the qualities of and differences between users.
  4. Ensure stakeholders agree on the hypothesis about the users.
  5. Determine a number of personas – more than one per project, but focus especially on one.
  6. Name and describe each persona in 1-2 pages, including:
    1. A picture.
    2. User’s values, interests, education, lifestyle, needs, attitudes, desires, limitations, goals and behavior patterns.
    3. Extra details about the persona (e.g., interests) – anything to make him/her more real and relevant and help build empathy. A written story is better than bullet points.
  7. Describe several situations/scenarios prompting the persona to use your product – put him/her in contexts with problems to overcome.
  8. Include everyone involved in the project so they’ll accept the persona or advise revisions.
  9. Send them the persona to use in their work.
  10. Ensure everyone develops scenarios – these should expose the persona optimally to potential use cases.
  11. Make continuous adjustments – revisit the persona; add new features; add required new personas; discard outdated personas.

How to Use Personas in Design Projects

When you bring personas into projects, you help prevent stakeholders from designing for themselves. It also keeps them from stretching generic users to fit designs. Personas help in quick prototype testing, too. You’ll confirm a persona works well when you ensure that “he/she”:

  1. Stays in context – What specific points about his/her situation can you map to how he/she can use your product now?
  2. Reflects a target user’s real behavior patterns, attitudes, skillset, motivations and goals within the product’s domain.
  3. Has an end-goal – What does the user want to achieve? What features would help him/her do that best?
  4. Faces realistic, relevant scenarioswritten from the persona’s perspective—to envision how users would find they’d use the product to attain a particular goal.
  5. Occupies a clear setting – a day-in-the-life approach that shows what he/she encounters in what environment.
  6. Has visible pain points – What’s the hardest/most frustrating aspect of his/her situation/context?

Bring the Persona closer to home with an Empathy Map.

Learn More about Personas

The IDF has courses examining Personas (e.g., Design Thinking, Gamification): https://www.interaction-design.org/courses

The IDF’s encyclopedia entry on Personas: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/personas

Free printable persona - https://www.storyboardthat.com/journey-map/bring-personas-to-your-office

An in-depth look at Role-Directed Personas: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/08/a-closer-look-at-personas-part-2/

This detail-rich piece addresses accommodating plural Personas: http://whatusersdo.com/blog/design-product-two-different-personas/

Learn how to avoid what can go wrong: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-personas-fail/

Literature on Personas

Here’s the entire UX literature on Personas by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Personas

Take a deep dive into Personas with our course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide.

User experience, or UX, has been a buzzword since about 2005, and according to tech research firm Gartner, the focus on digital experience is no longer limited to digital-born companies any more. Chances are, you’ve heard of the term, or even have it on your portfolio. But, like most of us, there’s also a good chance that you sometimes feel unsure of what the term “user experience” actually covers.

[User experience] is used by people to say, Im a user experience designer, I design websites, or I design apps. [] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! Its everythingits the way you experience the world, its the way you experience your life, its the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But its a system thats everything.

Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term user experience”, in an interview with NNGroup

As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers a number of different areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of what those areas are so that you know what tools are available to you.

Throughout this course, you will gain a thorough understanding of the various design principles that come together to create a user’s experience when using a product or service. As you proceed, you’ll learn the value user experience design brings to a project, and what areas you must consider when you want to design great user experiences. Because user experience is an evolving term, we can’t give you a definition of ‘user experience’ to end all discussions, but we will provide you with a solid understanding of the different aspects of user experience, so it becomes clear in your mind what is involved in creating great UX designs.

If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and with a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

All Literature

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