Introduction to the concept of persona in User Experience

Added on December 5, 2016 - Category: UX

For all those who dedicate to the User Experience , the concept of persona  is nothing new, we use it constantly.

However, for those who have just started on this fascinating path, this concept is so important that it will change your understanding of how to work with users, both choosing to work in this discipline as if they decide to use it as a tool to develop in other disciplines. (Software Developers, Graphic Designers, Industrial Designers, etc.).

Persona definition

Although the definitions of persona vary from one author to another, we can say that basically, persona is a user . An ideal user, with their own perceptions, goals and needs, but a user at last.

But let’s put aside the fundamental, what almost intuitively we know, to define this concept:

persona is an ideal entity built from research on real users.

The summary of the results of mentioned research and the patterns we got from it are combined to construct as many model users (or personas) as necessary.

To be clear with you: even when a persona can have characteristics of a real user that we have interviewed (and in fact it usually happens), we must remember that these personas do not really exist, but are an abstraction obtained from the investigation.

Methods to Create Personas

There are three kinds of personas:

  • Proto-personas
  • Marketing Personas
  • Design Personas

Proto Personas

In the first case, these proto-personas are created because lack of resources to conduct research with real users, so the creation of these persona will be based by a team of designers and / or researchers assumptions about the users provided.

  • It is important to note that the lack of resources does not mean you will not create personas. The difference between a design made from personas (even proto-personas) and one made freely, is really very big. *
  • When creating proto-personas, this process will require a team of at least 3 members (not necessarily part of the project), preferably 5, as a more reliable number. The lack of real users will be replaced by the subjectivities of the team members.
  • Although proto-personas are created without previous research, the application of user experiences based on these proto-personas must be validated by subsequent measurements.

* Personally, I never saw or knew of any design made based on personas who do not exceed any version based on the subjectivity of the designer

Marketing Personas

The Marketing personas, customers or buyer persona, are personas created by the same research method we mentioned above, only that such research is based on statistical models that analyze the behavior of users in both customers or buyers, without specificity or deepening of the underlying motivations of the user. In addition, although there are methods that can include contact with potential customers (real users), it is more common for these personas to be built from data, without any contact with users.

Example: we need to create a product with a more or less broad target audience for a geographic area to be determined and an age group that we must define correctly.

In this case, a marketing persona can be used to define projections based on data of other products, benchmarking (or comparators), market research, etc. However, such research cannot tell us how to develop the product, its usability, what the user expects from the product… Summarizing, what will make the product a success or a failure. And of course, it only applies to commercial cases.

However, once our product is defined and tested, marketing persona are fundamental everytime we have a commercial project.

Personas in User Experience (or Design Personas)

Finally, personas as we know them in UX. In other words: Your Majesty, the User.

These personas are created from personal interviews with potential users, whether in the laboratory or, better yet, at the user’s place of residence or work. That is, in its own context, where the experienced observer can infer additional data and the interviewee will not feel self-conscious about feeling observed and analyzed.

From these interviews, we can extract patterns based on emotions, perceptions, friction points, desires and frustrations.

Once we get these patterns, we will be able to combine them to create our personas as a synthesis of these interviews, as many personas as our research indicates, taking into account that they are a synthesis and not a catalog that includes all  possible user stories . That is: a manageable number of ideal users (usually between 2 and 10, where 5 is a more-than-enough number for most of our projects)

Source: UXpañol