The ultimate goal of UX design is to create pleasant and seamless experiences between people and technology. We design for humans and as humans, the range of likes, desires, behaviors and expectations is immense. But even in that inmensity we can still find patterns that group people together.

If we mean to create successful products and personalized experiences, we must have a deep understanding of the public we are targeting before starting to develop and design. Let’s start with the basics. To develop an effective user persona we have to be crystal clear about three things: what a user persona is, how to construct one, and where to use it.

What is a User Persona?

First things first. We can’t start without knowing what the heck a user persona is. A User Persona (also known as persona or buyer persona) is a fictional character that represents who would be the main user of a product. Its characteristics are based upon data collected from research, interviews and observation of the group of people who are targeted. They are the hypothetical archetype of actual users.

A persona is a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. A persona is depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from observations of many people.

Shlomo “Mo” Goltz

User personas are not only used in user-centered design, but are also widely used in sales, advertising and marketing. Creating this character helps a variety of teams to have a deeper understanding of their audience. It provides a human figure who we can recall and helps us to ask the right questions and answer those in line. A user persona gives designers, marketers and salespeople a human approach when working on the product, brand, service and different strategies. 

How to Build a User Persona 

Now that we know what a user persona is, we can start building one. We’ve got to keep in mind that this persona is the synthesised representation of our real users (or potential users). This persona has a name, a personality, likes and dislikes, goals… and even though this info may be fictional, all data must be based on real insights and research.  

We’ve got to get a real feel of this person’s worldview. This way we can ensure that we’re designing for users that will actually be our users, not just some hypothetical feeling of how they might behave.

Three Easy Steps to Building a User Persona

1. Collect Data

We have to have data about our users. What are their motivations, expectations, difficulties, goals, and tasks? To collect the data several qualitative and quantitative research methods can be used: interviews, observation, surveys, focus groups and the like play an important part in having all our insights backed up by real tangible data.

2. Find Patterns 

Data on its own is just numbers and a list of characteristics gathered. We must now analyze and explore patterns of behavior among our users. We group them and harmonize the collected data to start building the personality and psychographics of our user persona. Remember, we are synthesising the type of people we are going to be designing for

3. Build Up 

With data and patterns ready, we can now start building our user persona. Build a description of each user archetype found in research and give this fictional character a name, face, thoughts, fears, and background. By portraying them as a real human being it’s easier to gain empathy towards them and it makes the design process and problem solving much easier.

When we’re finished our user persona should look something like this:

When To Use a User Persona

A user persona is helpful throughout the entire product development process but is especially useful when, 

Trying to build empathy 

When the designer has a deep understanding of the user persona and sees it as a “real” person, it’s easier to get involved and take it into account in every design process, resulting in more humanized decisions that align with the users’ expectations.  

Making user-centered decisions 

User personas allow designers to have a clear understanding of who and what they are designing for, making it easier to prioritize feature requests. It also helps when justifying and delimiting decisions e.g. Making a button bigger. The reason: “our user persona Brenda is a middle aged woman with vision impairment, and needs bigger buttons to be able to use the app”. Now, the change won’t be just because you thought so, but there is a real justification as to why this element must have such characteristics.      

Putting everybody on the same page 

UX designers work in multidisciplinary teams. Everybody should be on the same page and be able to understand the scenarios we are working on. User personas serve as the tool to facilitate the understanding of the users, and the design decisions that will be made for the product. 

Why User Personas Matter 

User personas are a fundamental part of creating a product and are very useful in creative processes. Having a deep understanding of our audience will help us to design successful user experiences. We get to learn about the pains, expectations and different aspects of our audience. We’re able to have a “real” person to recall, and this has a great influence on the features and design elements that need to be developed in order for the experience to be exceptional. 

After all, we’re designing experiences for humans, and those who don’t take into account the whole spectrum of a human being are most likely destined to failure. 
If you want to learn more or have any questions feel free to reach me at morduno@nearsoft.com.