Week 7: A Closer Look At Personas

Among all the different ways of research and communicating I would have never thought creating a fake identity would be one. Now, this isn’t a completely “fake” person, but with some research and maybe an interview or two this “persons” habits and attitudes become real. In this post, we will be looking at what personas are, how to create them and why we use them.

What Is A Persona?

A persona is one way to model, summarize and communicate research that has been conducted. In a persona you will create a new individual based on observations of many, but it is not a real individual. These personas allow designers to focus on the manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of looking at a large group of people. These individuals are a mix of the entire population a designer is trying to study, but just wrapped up into one individual. They help designers to create different designs for that specific population instead of something for the general population.

Example of a persona from Xtensio.

How To Design A Persona?

Personas are usually created as a one-page document but it is more than just a memo or research paper. It is an out-of-the-box way of explaining and summarizing research trends. In a persona it is the understanding of the individual that’s important, not the physical document itself.

When creating a persona it is recommended that you follow a template to make sure you have all the correct information.

Persona poster template from Creative Companion.

Basic Process To Create A Persona

There is a plethora of ways a persona can be created, but designers are asked to follow a general format:

  1. Interview and/or observe a adequate amount of people.
  2. Find patterns in the interviewee’s responses and actions, and use those to group people together.
  3. Create archetypical models of those groups, based on patterns found.
  4. Drawing from that understanding of users and the model of that understanding, create user-centered designs.
  5. Share those models with other team members and stakeholders.

Detailed Process To Create A Persona

Now, if the basic steps to creating a persona weren’t enough for you. There are some more detailed steps as well which go more in-depth to preparing for the interviews, what to ask, and analyzing the data.

  1. Identify Your Users: Before starting to think about personas you have to figure our who you are going learn from.
  2. Decide What To Ask: When preparing to learn, you will want to make sure you are picking the right questions to ask or questions to think about while you observe. You won’t be able to learn everything, but you want to learn as much as you can. That’s why you want to pick the questions that will be the most common and give you the most output of information. You’ll also want to keep the project goals in mind when forming the right questions. When it comes to forming these questions you want to try and ask primarily open-ended questions, ask participants to show more than tell and ask for specifics.
  3. Get Access To Users: Having a good amount of users with help determine if your persona is accurate. You want it to help represent a large group of people, so having just 3 participants won’t be a good representation. It is recommend to have between 5 and 30 participants per role.
  4. Gain An Understanding Of Users: A lot of the time preparing to create a persona is done in interviewing and observing people. You want to make sure when you are interviewing you have another team member there to possibly hear things you may have missed, and you are in a comfortable locations for both your team and the interviewee. It is also very important to be empathetic with your users, you are better able to tap into their intuition.
  5. Analyze The Data: You will need to make sense of the data your team had gathered by finding patterns among it. This can be done by putting observations and attitudes on a spectrum.
  6. Synthesize A Model Of Users: Your research participants can now be represented by different personas. For each persona you need to capture the common, average and dominate traits.
  7. Produce A Document For Others: This includes: Name, Demographic, Descriptive title, photograph, quote, a day-in-the-life narrative and end goals.
  8. Socialize The Personas: By sharing the persona documents with others you are showing off the knowledge you have gained from your interviewees. You will want to give a one page document to others as a takeaway.

Using Personas

Personas can be an abundance of uses for a software development and design teams. From building empathy to making and defending decisions, following is someone the countless way they may be able to support you:

  • Build Empathy: After creating a persona, the designer is able to see clearly through the eyes of their individual. In this perspective the designer is able to solve problems, make decisions and view others in a way different than their personal life.
  • Develop Focus: This keeps the designer on track. With a persona a designer is reminded who the project is being developed for so their perspective doesn’t shift to their own.
  • Communicate and Form Consensus: When working on a multi-person team not everyone is able to be in the same place at once. So, after holding interviews creating a persona can help give those who could not make it to the interview a sense of what was said. Once everyone has a understanding of the user coming to a consensus becomes easier.
  • Make and Defend Decisions: When you are able to see from your individuals perspective, then it becomes much easier to design for them. You know what they would prefer versus what you would perfect, and you can figure out what they would respond too versus how you would respond to something.
  • Measure Effectiveness: Once creating a persona you are open to the world of testing through it. Using the persona to test situations should how the population may react to it.
Example of persona from Xtensio.

Effectiveness of Personas

Personas are effective because they have the ability to test several innate human abilities:

  • Narrative Practice: Ability to create, share and hear stories.
  • Long-Term Memory: Ability to acquire and maintain memories of the past (wisdom) from our own life experiences, which can be brought to bear on problems that other people face.
  • Concrete Thinking: Tendency for people to better relate to and remember tangible examples, rather than abstractions.
  • Theory of Mind: Ability to predict another person’s behavior by understanding their mental state.
  • Empathy: Ability to understand, relate to and even share the feelings of other specific people.
  • Experience-Taking: Ability to have the “emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses” of a fictional character when reading or watching a story.

When a designer actually understand their user the possibilities are endless when it comes to fulfilling needs, and seeing solutions. Actually understanding a populations wants and needs are much different than just designing what seems right for them. So personas are at their most effective when the designer fully understands and can empathize with the user.

Conclusion

Personas not only give us a nice document with many of the common characteristics we see within a group of people, but it gives us a new pair of eyes to look through. We are able to be more empathetic when hearing about issues, and able to design something for a community or group of people with plenty of back up information about their situation. By going through this process projects are more efficient and likely to work because we looked through the someone else’s eyes and not our own.

Sources

Goltz, Shlomo. “A Closer Look At Personas: A Guide To Developing The Right Ones (Part 2).” Smashing Magazine , 13 Aug. 2014, www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/08/a-closer-look-at-personas-part-2/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021. 

Goltz, Shlomo. “A Closer Look At Personas: What They Are And How They Work | 1.” Smashing Magazine , 6 Aug. 2014, www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/08/a-closer-look-at-personas-part-1/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Hi, Elizabeth! I really liked the question headings. You anticipated my questions and answered them before I had the chance to ask them. You might want to consider using a parallel structure for all of your headings, but I still found them informative. I really appreciate that you added a template for creating a persona. I wouldn’t even know where to start, so having an example and blank template is really helpful. You make a great point that asking the right questions is important. This includes asking yourself questions about the goals of your websites, asking questions to real users, and imagining questions that your personas might ask. This article from The Persona Blog has some general information about creating a persona, as well as specific (and common) interview questions. (Check it out here: How to Create Personas? A List of Common Interview Questions (qcri.org)) You have to ask lots of questions to really understand who this person is and what they would think of your website. The persona will only be effective if it represents a wide variety of users, not just one random individual. That requires research, interviews, and talking to real users. As I design a website this semester, I’ll try to keep asking questions to really understand who my users are and why they would come to my website.

  2. Hi Elizabeth! I really enjoyed reading through your blog post! I had no idea how beneficial creating a persona can be for web development. I particularly liked your explanation of how to create a persona in order to make it most effective. If we have to make a persona for our group project, I will definitely be referring back to the steps you laid out.

    The article that I found from uxpressia is titled “9 Steps to Create a Persona”. This article goes into more detail about segmenting your audience if the users of a website are more broad. I liked that they acknowledged how different personas can be used for the same website. This article also details how to add in behavioral patterns by using a sliding scale. This could be helpful for more abstract concepts a website needs to test for. I can clearly see through both of these articles that personas are a handy tool when developing a website for a client.

    https://uxpressia.com/blog/how-to-create-persona-guide-examples

  3. Hi Elizabeth. I appreciate how you bolded the main ideas of each bullet or numbered point in your lists. It helps readers identify the main takeaways from the lists. I liked your explanation of the creation process of personas. It is useful to have a step-by-step guide to follow in order to ensure all requirements are met. I appreciate your list of the various ways personas can be helpful while planning and designing a webpage. I was curious about how personas could be created to better suit the needs of users. I found this article that explains four different perspectives that can be used when creating personas (https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/personas-why-and-how-you-should-use-them). Personas can be created by looking closely at the goals of certain groups of users, the roles of groups of users, or a mixture of both. It’s important to understand how users will view themselves as they access your website to provide the content they need.

  4. Hello Elizabeth,
    Thank you for your post on personas this week. I found it very informative and helpful when you gave us the detailed list on how to make personas. I think having the TLDR version was very smart as well considering this is a blog format. I thought that it could be useful to have some embedded links to back up some of the claims in the persona effectiveness section, just to help the reader see the piece as credible. I liked the pictures that were added as examples of what a persona might look like on paper. I thought this article did a good job of listing some of the reasons to do personas during design https://www.businessanalystlearnings.com/ba-techniques/2017/4/12/what-bas-can-learn-from-using-personas-in-product-design . It also contains a few different approaches one can take while designing a persona. This section I found very interesting because it allows you to take on the task(of making a new persona) in a new light every time you do it. Thank you for your insight into making personas. I enjoyed reading your article!

  5. Hi Elizabeth!
    First of all, your blog post is very easy to read. In my opinion, this is due to your structuring – the bulleted lists are very appropriate and seamless, and the wording of your points. You wrote each concept in a very easy-to-read and straightforward way. Before this blog post and the slides on Personas, I knew that website creators imagined who their target audience was, but I had no idea that it had this detailed and extensive process attached to it. I think that the concept of creating well rounded and detailed personas is so effective for ensuring that your website is able to encompass empathy for the users, among many other things of value for a site. While doing some research I came across this site: https://www.smartinsights.com/marketplace-analysis/customer-analysis/web-design-personas/. I highly recommend checking this website out; it centers about the best practices and in-depth examples of how creating a persona can be such an effective tool for a site.
    Overall, great and informative blog post!!

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