In any business, it is essential to have a deep understanding of users and customers. And in a world overflowing with products and services, we must understand user’s pains and needs to approach them with precision and deliver value– this is where personas come in handy.
In this article, we will cover the basics of personas, how to create them, and the points to keep in mind for creating them well.
What is a Persona?
A persona is a fictional image of a person who represents the type of customer or user who will use a company’s services. These fictional characters, or personas, are often created by synthesizing customer surveys along with issues and characteristics commonly noticed by customer-facing employees. By creating different types of personas, you can understand the needs, behaviors and goals of your users.
Imagine the kind of people who use your service or product– the image of the user that comes to your mind now can be a starting point for your persona. Using this initial image as a reference, you can corroborate it with interviews and begin to visualize the user more concretely. Survey data and interviews can be used to create a common understanding within the team. When each member of the team has a slightly different user in mind, it can be difficult to come to an agreement, but with a common persona, your team can move forward confidently.
In addition, personas help you avoid making sweeping generalizations, and prevent people from assuming that their own experience using a service or product is consistent with the user’s experience.
So what exactly does a persona look like? Let’s look at two examples.
In this case, let’s imagine that we are developing outdoor wear using two types of patterns, A and B.
Family：Wife, two daughters
Name： Tsuyoshi Sato
Occupation：Consultant, known in his office for working overtime often.
Family：Wife, two daughters (5 and 8 years old)
Interests：Always looks forward to going camping on weekends and traveling with his family.
Personality：Gentle but serious.
Which is easier to understand and imagine, pattern A or B?
Pattern A is a list of inorganic information that is hard to visualize. Pattern B, on the other hand, is so concrete that it’s as if “Tsuyoshi Sato” actually exists. As you might guess, Pattern B is the better persona. In Pattern B, the context surrounding the user and their love of spending time outdoors on holidays is easy to imagine. Furthermore, questions like “What would Tsuyohsi do?” and “How would Tsuyoshi feel about this?” can make talking about users easier. On the other hand, Pattern A is more similar to what we call a “target” and is difficult to personify.
Personas are designed to help us empathize with the individuals who will use our service. As such, you can think of them more like profiles found on social sites rather than a formal document.
The complete persona might look like the following image ▼
How to Create a Persona
1. Start by reviewing: Based on the notes from your user interviews, create one or two personas that represent your core users. Each persona should have a slightly different story, service, or product usage scenario.
A typical persona includes the following items. Depending on the target of your business (B2B, B2C, etc.), you may need to adjust the content.
- Family structure
- IT literacy
- Devices they use
*Where should you create your personas?
Personas can be written on paper, or you can start creating them using your own software, such as PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote. You can also start using design thinking software tools and web applications to customize the layout of your personas. One of our favorite tools for this kind of work is Miro, an online whiteboarding tool that even comes with persona templates for your team to start working from.
2. Make the personas more concrete. In the next step, further refine your personas by including images, words, etc. that represent the user’s needs and goals. Careful persona creation will help you to gain a deeper understanding and have empathy for your users. As mentioned earlier, personas need to have a certain degree of specificity. To visualize the image of the user’s persona, free image material sites such as Pexels are also useful.
3. Discuss ideas and create scenarios. In this step, create a scenario in which the persona wants to use the product or service. Begin by imagining the persona in a situation where a problem has come up that they want to solve. What are the motivations, goals, and needs of that user? Furthermore, what are the pain points and challenges? This is where you can identify the user’s pain points and create a story to elicit deeper empathy. Using a storyboard here can be effective. Creating a scenario where the persona becomes the user will bring them to life.
4. Make final adjustments. In some cases, you may end up with as many as eight different personas for one project. You’ll want to narrow this down to 2-4 depending on your product to make things more manageable. First, consider whether you can merge similar personas. If you still feel that you have too many, conduct a poll. Using a chat app or a notepad, ask participants which persona they would like to see as their core user persona. Again ask the question, “For whom should we optimize the design?” as you make final adjustments and update your personas.
Things to Keep in Mind When Creating Personas
There are a few precautions you should take when creating personas, to ensure that they are useful and provide value to your project.
- Don’t be prejudiced. Information about age, gender, and residence can be misleading. Though these are factors can help create an image of the user, if not handled properly, they can lead you in the wrong direction. “Women are supposed to like X…” “There are people like this in X country…” It is important to avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes.
- Narrow down information. Do not add unnecessary information to your persona. As mentioned earlier, information about the persona’s personality and hobbies can help you visualize them, but too much information can be counterproductive. Focus on information that is relevant to your project, and makes it easy to imagine the user.
- Don’t over-idealize. One of the most common mistakes people make when creating personas is to create their ideal users. Instead of creating a fictional persona, imagine a real user while creating them. To avoid this mistake, it is important to create personas based on the results of interviews, and the input of actual users.
- Regularly update your personas. Once you have created your personas, it is important to revise them regularly. Changes in the personas context, such as technological developments, can affect their profiles. For example, you may have unknowingly experienced a rapid change, such as when your cell phone was replaced by a smart phone. Sometimes you need to rewrite the descriptions of existing personas, add new personas, or even delete outdated personas.
Personas are a useful tool for coming to consensus with your team on who your user or customer is. They also help you to empathize and clearly envision how they may be using your product. Keep these few simple tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to creating personas informed by real research that will propel your product development forward.
Service Design Intern
Rei is currently a student at Tokyu University of Foreign Studies, majoring in French and Sociolinguistics. She is passionate about understanding society and culture, with a current focus on Service Design and sustainability.