Personas: Learn how we identify our users in UX

Added on December 5, 2016 - Category: UX, Blog, Theory, UX Research, UX Theory

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

However, for those who have just started on this fascinating path, this concept is really important. So important that it will change your understanding of how to work with users.

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 nevertheless.

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.

We study and analyze the results of such research. Then, we combine the patterns we got to construct as many model users (or personas) as necessary.

Let’s be clear: even when a persona may 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. Instead, they are an abstraction we obtain from previous investigation.

Methods to Create Personas

There are three kinds of personas:

  • Proto-personas
  • Marketing Personas
  • Design Personas

Proto Personas

In the first case, we create them because of lack of resources to conduct research with real users. Thus, we’ll create this persona type using assumptions about the users. These assumptions will come from our team of designers and / or researchers.

Simply put: a brainstorming of common knowledge and assumptions for certain specific users.

Personas: example of proto-persona
An example of a proto-persona we made for a project
Considerations
  • It is important to note that lack of resources doesn’t mean you will not create personae. The difference between a design made from persona-driven data (even proto-personas) and one made without data, is really big. *
  • When we create a proto-persona, this process will require a team of at least 3 members (not necessarily part of the project). If possible, we’ll try to involve 5 people for more reliable results. We will replace The lack of real users by the subjectivities of the team members.
  • Although we create proto-personas without previous research, the application of user experiences based on these proto-personas must be validated by subsequent research and analysis.

* 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.

However, such research is based on statistical models that analyze the behavior of users. There’s no specificity or deepening of the underlying motivations of the user, only raw data.

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

In this case, we use a marketing persona 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…

In short: 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, a marketing persona is 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.

We create these personas from personal interviews with potential users. We do this in a lab or, better yet, at the user’s place of residence or work.

This means we study the user in her own context. Thus, the experienced observer can infer additional data.

The interviewee will feel self-conscious about feeling observed and analyzed, though. This is an aspect to consider in such cases.

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

Once we get these patterns, we are able to combine them to create our ideal users. These will be a synthesis of these interviews. And we can create as many personae as our research indicates.

However, it’s important to remember 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).

Interested in UX research and how we can help you understand your users need? Make sure to contact us, you won’t regret it!

Disclaimer: This content was translated to English from the original we wrote in Spanish, available in UXpañol

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