What Is a User Persona?

Nick

If you have been browsing our blog for a while, you might know what user personas are. They are a necessary step for creating any user story map. What’s more, they are important for the entire business strategy. Having defined personas means you know your audience. And this is a guarantee of hitting the target!

A ‘User persona’ is a representation of your customer. It represents your target audience who may belong to various audience segments. Personas are designed to identify what these people need from your product or service. It answers the questions about your ideal customer:

  • What do they need?
  • What are their goals?
  • How do they behave with similar products?
User persona example
User persona by Ofer Ariel

The method of setting personas origins from the 1990s, when it was used in IT development. Still, in the bud, this concept existed back in the 80s. Alan Cooper, a software engineer, is considered the father of the concept. In 1999, he published ‘The inmates are running the asylum’, where he introduced personas as containers for data about ideal users. Later, he published more books and articles about interaction design and finally, opened his design consultancy named Cooper. 

Thanks to this person, we all have a formalized research and creation process of setting personas.

What are User Personas Today?

Technology and UX trends change and evolve, so you might assume user personas have greatly changed since the late 1990s.

Today, creating them has become easier. User-friendly interfaces of specialized tools empower any user to create a great user persona. If you don’t believe it’s possible, try FlowMapp right away! We’ve done the most work for you! ;)

What’s more, people don’t ask questions like ‘What is a user persona?’ anymore. Anyone involved in the development process has at least once heard about the concept. The basic definition of user persona now is the same to one Alan Cooper set in 1999: 

Personas are not real people, they only represent real people throughout the  process. They are archetypes of actual users design

Why Do You Need a User Persona?

Designing a user persona gives development teams an understanding for whom they create products:

  • Who is an ideal customer?
  • Why do they need the product? 
  • What pain points will be avoided by using the product?
  • How do they interact with similar products?
  • Will they choose us instead of competitors?

What’s more, it makes the work more fun yet efficient. Developers see how different people will benefit from using the product. They make sure that their product is exactly what users need, that your value proposition is the best choice for the audience. Also, business owners will be sure that their product will be well-monetized, as there are real users described in personas.

User persona example
User persona by Ofer Ariel

User Persona Elements

We’ll soon tell you how to create great personas, but let’s start with the basic things you’ll need:

  1. Fictional name. This makes referring to a persona simple and quick. For example, here we have a 26-year girl Bernice B. Ewald.
  2. Profession/job title. Bernice from #1 is a Product Designer.
  3. Photo. Use a stock image to give your user persona a face.
  4. Demographic data. For example, our product designer is 26. You may add more information: Is she married? Does she have children? Where does she live? Which car does she drive?
  5. Basic behavior. Describe how your persona spends their days to define the context of using the product. What are their needs and wants during the day at work/at home/with friends?
  6. Goals. Start with general and proceed to product-specific goals. For example, you can list everything from ‘using technology every day’ to ‘designing a user story map in 5 minutes’.
  7. Motivators. Add things motivating users to achieve goals. What does help them?
  8. Fears. These are pain-points of your users. For example, ‘spending 8 hours on setting a simple user flow’ can be scary for users.

How Do You Define a User Persona?

Based on the above-mentioned elements, there are always four types of data in any user persona:

  1. User persona header.
  2. Demographic data.
  3. Goal or goals.
  4. A scenario for achieving them.

Making sure your personas are accurate takes lots of time and effort. However, high-quality research is a guarantee of the product’s success. Identify target users, group them, embody every group in a separate persona. Easy! 

Main Steps to Create Great User Personas

Finally, we are here to teach you how to create the best personas ever! Let’s go!

Step 1. User Research & Analyzing Data

The first and foremost is research. Be ready to spend more time on this stage than on others. Your product can’t be suitable for just everyone. Some users will enjoy it more, and you need to define them. This is a global business task, so if you’re not sure how to do it, address business owners or the marketing department. They might already have done this work!

If you do everything from scratch, think of a way to define users: 

  • Online research
  • Short surveys
  • Live interviews
  • Your own way ;)

Once you have the data about different user types, find similarities in people’s answers, and group them to create a single persona draft for each of all user groups.

Step 2. Add a Header

This part implies a name, a photo, and a short quote summarizing what a user needs from your product.

Here is an example of a girl you met at the top of the article:

Made with Personas by Flowmapp

The header helps development teams focus on crucial things at first glance.

Step 3. Add Demographic Data

Grab this information from the draft based on user research. Note basic things about your users:

  • Personal background: Gender, ethnicity, age, education, family status, and persona group.
  • Professional experience: Occupation, work experience, and income level.
  • Living environment: Everything about the physical, social, and tech environment. For example, which devices they use, where they spend more time — at home or in the office, how often they communicate with others, and so on.
  • Psychographics: Interests, attitudes, motivations, and pain points. This section is about users’ behavior and how they will benefit from using your product.

Demographic data adds to the realism of your collective image and helps you understand who your users actually are. They have the same goals and needs as you, they are real people too.


Step 4. Add Goals

Once you know the pains and wishes of your users, identify their goals. This is the most important motivator inspiring people to take action and buy products. This is the main driving force of your persona.

To make it simpler, just answer the question: What does a user want to achieve by using your product?


Step 5. Write a Scenario

This may be a narrative about how a user persona would interact with the product. Imagine you are a persona and tell everyone about what you do with the product. For example, our character Bernice would do it this way:

With a new tool for designing user flows, I’d like to enhance my user experience design. For this, I need to map realtime and non-realtime interactions. I need a simple tool to not spend more than 3 hours on this task. Ideally, it has a drag-and-drop intuitive interface and some presets

Tips for Creating the Best User Personas

Let’s pretend you have implemented the basics from the above guide. Now, let’s focus on essential tips for improving your user personas.

#1 — One-page Approach

Set the design process for using only one page. Leave extra details behind and concentrate only on crucial elements. Omit unnecessary details on how customers will use your product unless they influence the overall interaction with it.

If you need to add a list of extras that users will need in real life for sure, link to a file with additional data.


#2 — Persona Is More than Just Demographics

Many product designers create user personas without musing upon their emotions and feelings. Still, a set of a name and photo with demographic characteristics won’t tell you much about end users.

Except for age, marital status, and job title, users have fears and motivations, which drive their actions and buying decisions.

#3 — Describe a Day in Detail

Let’s continue the second point… To take a closer look at your characters while developing personas, imagine their whole day. At what time do they get up? What do they do first? Write down this schedule and recap all the activities. Try glancing at them from a high-level perspective:

  • Which activities have you missed? 
  • For what except for working/studying/etc. Could your persona use the product?
  • Will a user persona benefit only in professional life or in private as well?

#4 — Start Small

After getting inspiration from others’ work on the Internet, you can be embarrassed by their great variety. And all of them are full of details. What to do if you have only several points in your research? 

As appetite comes with eating, details come with full living problems and desires of the end user. Expand your user persona after you have its backbone. Use our step-by-step manual to get a hint on what to specify next.

#5 — Base Personas on Real People

Creating a user persona doesn’t mean making up a brand-new user category. Don’t invent user types. All the research data must be based on real people’s opinions and feedback. Talk to real persons — your family, friends, colleagues, ask people on the web, post a poll in thematic communities. People will gladly answer a couple of questions!

To make this more attractive to people you don’t know, you might offer some value to them. It might be a promo code for your product when it is live or useful feedback or a checklist with actionable tips

Examples of User Personas

Creating user personas can be even more simple when looking at ready-made persona examples.

At FlowMapp, we describe the whole process of creating user personas according to the latest UX design trends. As for examples, here are some of them:

  1. Let Bernice B. Ewald — the persona of a 26-year Product designer we met here before — be the first example. Here we can see her bio, goals and fears, motivations, behavior, apps she uses. What’s more, we have data about who and what influences her decisions — it’s a good idea!
  2. Gayle J. Ping — a young Product designer from Marrero. Though the layout is a bit different, we can find extensive information about this persona. Also, except for bio, goals, frustrations, and other basic data, we find details on her personality in the right top corner.
  3. Kimson Doan is a UX designer and her persona is completely different from what we’ve seen before. Look at the blocks. We have some basic ones, still, the whole approach is tailored to revealing UX design skills. Platforms, confidence in website building, product use scenarios are great examples of the focused approach. 
  4. Tracy Cole, a beginner Software Engineer from San Francisco, has a detailed yet brief user persona. You can see her basic information, preferences, platforms she works with, socials, and contacts with messengers.

You can use any of these examples as your first persona template! Sign up with FlowMapp and try this tool for free! Intuitive interface and drag-and-drop tools are the guarantee of your successful persona project. 

Key Takeaways

Since timelines for projects become shorter with every new step of technology, automated tools save you high-valued time! You now know the answer to the question: What is a user persona? And can consider the user persona tool a great time-saver. 

It allows teams to quickly identify user needs and learn their audience from A to Z. This is key for any business, as users are who define the success or failure of your products and services. 

And don’t forget about user-friendly tools helping you to design a persona according to the latest UX trends without tons of efforts! Try FlowMapp right away! ;)

FAQs