Understanding your users is key to creating a successful product. The relationship between users and business owners has changed dramatically over the past decade. Users are now a very powerful stakeholder in the design of the end product. They expect websites and applications to be valuable, quick, and delightful or they will not use it. One of the best ways to understand your users is by creating meaningful personas.
A persona is a physical profile that represents a segment of your users. Users can be grouped by behavioral patterns, physical similarities, demographics, location, attitudes, motivations, etc. Personas are not just imaginary representations of users; they are strategically created based on research and observation.
The key to creating effective personas is choosing the right segments of users. Before creating personas, it is important to conduct 1-on-1 interviews with a variety of your users. I typically look at patterns in data and analytics and the problem we are trying to solve to help choose the right users to interview. Interviewing between three to four users from each segment usually gives me enough information to create accurate personas.
Personas are a great way to make "users" more human. Each persona should be given a human name and a profile photo. This allows the development team to feel a relationship with users while in production. To choose a photo you can buy a stock photo, use a personal photo, or a Creative Commons photo. Make sure that the photo you choose is of someone that is not familiar to anyone on your team.
You should include other demographic details such as age, hometown, education, ethnicity, etc. Users come from many different backgrounds and their past experiences contribute to the way the interact with your product. It is important to understand that outside factors have a significant effect on how the users understand and engage with your product. Including demographic details will help your team understand the "background" of your personas.
Personas must represent the most common goals within each user segment. To users, websites and applications are just tools with the primary purpose of helping them accomplish tasks. Each user approaches your product with a set of goals and needs. It is our job as UX designers to help users accomplish those goals. Each persona should include a set of goals. I have also found it helpful to include a "desires" category to cover those tasks that users would like to accomplish but are not essential to functionality.
Examples of user tasks:
- Learn what Cardinal Solutions does
- Read about Agile/PM Practice
- View Case Studies of successful Agile enablement projects
- Contact Sales Representative from Cardinal
Examples of user desires:
- View photos and profiles of all staff
- Read blog posts by all Agile coaches
- See reviews from other companies who worked with Cardinal
- Hire an experienced Agile coach
- See that Cardinal's website is professional and clean
Personas can be used many different times during the development process. They are very useful when validating your site map for user experience. A quick persona exercise might include walking each user through your site map to make sure that their tasks can be easily accomplished. Often users abandon a task after several seconds of confusion. This exercise allows for your development team to quickly understand where users will have trouble navigating your website or application before in depth usability testing.
Creating effective user personas has many benefits:
- Personas make data easier to understand
- Personas help simplify the user research process
- Personas help development teams develop a common understanding of users
- Personas give teams a real person to design and develop for
- Personas give key insight into user segments
Personas are a very useful and effective tool for improving User Experience. Though they are just one element within the large UX process, they provide valuable insights and understanding.