What is a persona and why are they important in the design process? A persona is a modeled user who represents what he/she aspires to achieve and why. Some people think that personas are stereotypes, but on the contrary, they are in fact archetypes. The differences between these two things are huge!

Stereotypes are the opposite of what a persona should be. They represent bias assumptions instead of relying on real data and distinct observed patterns. Treating personas like archetypes employ respect and empathy, which are two major components in creating a well-rounded and credible persona. Personas are important in the design process because they help designers, marketers and clients meet in middle ground to best understand who the primary focus consumer is and what they need to achieve in order to satisfy them.

The 6 types of personas

There are six different types of personas to think about: primary, secondary, supplemental, customer, served and negative.

A primary persona is the main focus of the design and is chosen based off of the highest amount of goals met. If you are unable to hone down the primary persona it could be because the product needs more than one interface, each containing its own persona. Another reason may be that the product or site is asking for too much and is too extensive. This is where you decide to make multiple primary personas for each interface, or go back and revise what it is you’re trying to focus on.

A secondary persona is a persona who is almost entirely satisfied with all of the primary’s needs minus one or two. It’s ok to have zero to two secondary personas, but more than that is a red flag for problems with the focus target.

Supplemental personas are completely satisfied with either the primary or secondary persona(s).

Customer personas focus on the customers, not the user. They can often be seen as secondary personas.

Served personas are affected by the use of the product, not the people using it.

Negative personas represent the opposite of the primary persona. They are an example of who not to design for.

So how do you create a persona?

Best practice says to research, interview people, compare identified patterns found in data, map behavioral patterns, locate and analyze these patterns, create characteristics and goals, double check credibility, and finally, develop narratives. After you gather raw data it’s best to cluster it into groups while identifying significant behavioral variables. Find patterns within these clusters and place them on a scale ranging between, for example, service-oriented users vs. price-oriented or necessity vs. entertainment. Focus on where most users stand between these two ranges.

Through this, create characteristics a primary user has. You can do this by describing the environment, workday, frustrations, wants and outcomes. Bring a persona to life by researching common names in a focused area and environment. Are females more likely to be the main focus group or males? What sort of lifestyle do they lead? Be sure to always include their first and last name, age, geographic location, relative income, marital status and job title.

You can find out more about how to create a persona here:

http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/personas.html

http://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/personas.html

Creating goals for personas

Goals are formed through interviews, questionnaires and behaviors. They are important because they show a user’s frustrations and motivations which guide their behavior patterns. There are three types of goals that must be created: life goals, experience goals and end goals.

Life goals represent personal objectives that go beyond the product or design being implemented. These goals represent long-term motivations that a persona has that drive them. A few examples being: be the best at what I do, or learn all there is to know about their field of work. It can even be as big as traveling the world in the future.

Experience goals explain how a user wants to feel while using a product or navigating through a site. These goals are usually unconscious so it’s best to have a user walk through a task and have them explain what they’re doing as they navigate through a site or use a product. Examples of this include: don’t make the user feel stupid or have fun while completing a task.

End goals describe the end result of what they want to accomplish. For example, when you pick up your phone, you have a specific outcome in mind. A great design allows a user to complete a task that they set out to do in an easy and efficient manner. Other end goals may be: to find the best price or process an order quickly with ease.

What’s next after creating a persona?

After the demographics, goals and an image of the persona is chosen, the next step is to write up a description about a day in the life of said persona by incorporating their goals and all of the gathered data mentioned above. This is where the persona truly comes to life! It is good practice to mention what initiates a thought process, the decisions that they make, and the actions that they take. Including the results that follow the actions taken is also vital.

After everything is compiled and written out, you now have a complete primary persona to focus on while designing to aid in creating a credible final product. Be sure to refer back to your persona as you move forward in the design process to check that you are meeting their goals and motivations. Through these steps you will have a great reference that will reflect a successful final design.