What are UX Personas?

Carefully moulded to feel realistic and believable, a UX Persona is a collection of target user data shaped into a character for designers to connect with and design for. But some companies struggle to understand the point of putting so much effort into creating an accurate but fake user.

Think about writing a birthday card. If you were told to write a card for a person who is upper-middle class, in their late thirties, and likes little dogs, you could probably write a generic but acceptable greeting. It would be ok, but nothing special. Now, if you were given a sheet with the same person’s photograph, demographic, goals, and preferences, it’s likely that you’ll find writing that birthday card much easier. Even if you’ve never met the person, you’ll begin to arrange these details into a personality you can connect with, allowing you to see that person’s needs more clearly, and write a better message. Persona work in the same way by allowing the designer to stop trying to empathize with an impersonal data sheet and instead consider the needs of a plausible user.

Why Create a UX Persona?

Generating a UX Persona is a process that requires a considerable investment of both time and money, so why do companies create them? When using a UX persona, many designers find the persona will naturally guide the designer’s choices towards the target user group, making decisions feel more structured and logical. This steers companies from spending needless time and money trying to appeal to user groups with no interest in the service or product and attract users who are likely to benefit from it instead.

This is not to say that creating a character out of nothing but thin air and speculation will help focus a project. Creating a UX persona representing only the designer’s idea of a stereotypical user can do more harm than good. Without proper research and consideration, creating a persona in one’s image is risky. It sometimes feels logical to ask questions like, ‘What would I look for?’ when creating a product, but sadly, more often than not, the intended user group is not UX designers.

Creating a useful persona for product design

So, your team has weighed the pros and cons and decided to invest in a UX persona. Where do you start? There are hundreds of UX persona templates and guides online, but it’s difficult to choose the information to fill them. Perhaps none of the templates fit your product completely, so creating your own UX persona may be preferable.

A standard UX persona generally contains the following data:

  • A Persona name that is age and demographic-appropriate.
  • A photograph gives designers a face to match the character’s personality.
  • Demographics, such as age, gender, location, civil status, and career.
  • Behaviours, like where a user goes first to find help or usage by time of day.
  • Goals and needs to focus on the designer.
  • Dislikes and frustrations to be wary of.
  • A Spark of personality, like a favorite saying, quote, or value that expresses the personality.

Now, how do companies find the data if this information can’t be made up? Research and analytics, to put it simply. The guide below is a more in-depth template for creating a UX Persona for your own company:

Step One: Gather user information

The most useful UX personas are formed using field research, specifically collecting data such as demographic information, goals and needs, and behaviors. The character can be built on interviews, prior research, and communicating with company stakeholders from a large sample of the target audience. It’s important to make the persona as true to life as possible and avoid using baseless assumptions.

If the option of conducting this much research doesn’t exist, UX Personas can be created using customer support logs or web analytics. Although not a fair comparison, this ‘Provisional Persona’ is a useful proxy until a research-based persona can be made.

Step Two: Analyse and Collate Research Findings

Next, the collected research must be analyzed to find trends used to identify promising user groups. You can select the most appropriate user group and weave the accrued data into the UX persona. If multiple users are in the same age range, make your persona an average of that age. If most of your users are single, make the persona single, and so on, until you have a document that feels like a natural person. Choose a stock photo that matches, settle on a name, and that’s it! Your UX persona can be distributed to the team and put to work.

What if the research conducted identified several potential user groups? The guide above is for a product with only one target user demographic, and the likelihood of designers finding themselves in the position of having multiple target user groups is high. In this case, it is recommended to create one primary persona and up to three secondary personas. Any more than four personas can make decisions more complicated and confusing for designers than having no persona at all, which undermines the whole process.

Making an Impact

When made well, UX personas are the focal point for human connection. They make empathizing with the user, making informed decisions, and designing a helpful product simpler. Eventually, these fictional characters will start to feel like active members of the design team.

Although the process of creating a persona can be confusing to navigate, our UX experts would love to talk if you need any further guidance.

UX Personas are now standard tools for UX Designers, but what makes them worthwhile? Radiant has put together a helpful guide on creating exceptional UX Personas and how they can help give design teams an edge.