When developing a product it is extremely important to understand the target users, know their pain points and their motivation. We can use our best judgment to make decisions on what is good for users, but we don’t always know what is best for them.

How do we ensure we create products tailor made for the specific needs and goals of our users? How do we know we provide good user experience for them?

The value of personas

Since real users can’t be there when the design process takes place, designers use personas — fictional characters that represent the different user types of a website or a product. In usability the purpose of personas is to build user understanding and evolve designs.

Personas focus on user goals, current behavior, and pain points. They are based on field research and real people. They describe why people do what they do in attempt to help everyone involved in designing and building a product understand and remember the end user throughout the entire product development process.

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Usually personas include the following key pieces of information:

  • Fictional name
  • Job titles and major responsibilities
  • Demographics such as age, education, ethnicity, and family status
  • The goals and tasks they are trying to complete using the site
  • Their physical, social, and technological environment
  • A quote that sums up what matters most to the persona as it relates to your site
  • Casual pictures representing that user group

Persona is the voice of the user. What can happen when we ignore it:

  • Everyone on the team has a different opinion about who we are designing for.
  • Team can’t agree on which features to prioritize.
  • Team spends time developing features that never get used.

Using personas throughout the design process

In short, the use of personas in the design process is what connects the product to the end user. However, personas are only half of the solution, and by themselves they don’t go very far. The secret sauce is personas + scenarios.

Scenarios, meanwhile, give a persona context and help us understand the main user flows. A scenario tells the story of how the product will be used in the future. The next step is to learn to create great scenarios, and I’ll cover this in one of my next posts.

Stay tuned!



3 thoughts on “Personas

  1. Great summary on personas! I like that you mentioned what features are usually part of a persona: name, job, demographics, etc.

    Personas are an important part of any design process. Whether you are trying to figure out the user interface or deciding what new functionality to add, personas can help you connect to the users. And when you do usability testing, personas can really help you focus on your usability scenarios and scenario tasks. We’ll get to that in a few weeks. 🙂

    I look forward to reading your two sample GNOME personas!


  2. Hey Diana,
    I think it’s great that you added in examples of what the design/development process would look like without personas to help give a voice to the user. I think that helps clarify the importance of the persona from the first stages of software development. Nice post!


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