Personas

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

What are Personas?

Personas are fictional characters designers use to reflect user types, pinpointing who they are and what they do with products in relevant contexts. Designers create personas from user data, to understand user characteristics, needs, goals, etc. and gain valuable insights into user journeys, and later, test prototypes.

Learn how using Personas means better designs.

Personas Are More Than “People”

Personas are distilled essences of real users. With personas, we build empathy with target users, focus on their world, share insights/knowledge with other stakeholders to gain consensuses, make defensible decisions reflecting the persona’s/user group’s exact needs, and gauge our designs’ effectiveness through their eyes. Crucially, we create personas from observations about real users, not faceless masses – mapping users’ needs to a design’s functionality demands clearly defining needs and users. We shape personas iteratively. In dividing users into manageable groups, we represent each with a typical “embodiment” – a persona. For instance, “Amy” represents a user group—18-year-old females adapting to college life—for an app helping students budget properly. With Amy, we see how our app helps these users in their day-to-day activities. For context, Amy’s just started banking online, lives in shared housing and works weekends. Her goal is saving money; her scenario – stretching $70 to cover her week’s groceries. Using this goal-directed persona allows early testing of our design. Other approaches include the role-directed perspective—for addressing user groups’ needs, etc. in a workplace—and the engaging perspective, where we apply our own experiences in identifying with users as people, not stereotypes.

Create Effective Personas

Personas should feature early in the design process. To create them, you:

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

Using personas helps stakeholders avoid designing for themselves or stretching generic users to fit designs. Personas also help in quick prototype testing. You can confirm a persona works well by ensuring “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 scenarios, written from the persona’s perspective, to envision how users would find using the product to attain a particular goal.
  5. Occupies a clear setting (a day-in-the-life-of approach exposing 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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