As one establishes a career in UX, personas are one tool they’ll certainly utilize during user research protocol and find solutions based on design to solve problems and create more human-centered experiences, products, or services.
First introduced by Alan Cooper, personas define a prototypical user, an example of a person who would communicate with a specific system. The idea is that if a UX designer wants to create a human-centered design solution, then it needs to be designed keeping these various personas of users in mind.
What are Personas?
Do folks often google what are personas? or what are personas in UX? In simple words, personas portray fictitious people, based on the familiarities of real users. Unlike actors, we see on our screens playing the one role that they are assigned to; personas are several different types of roles that help bring the idea to life.
The goal of personas is to create an authentic and lifelike depiction of the target audience for reference, based on user observation. Each persona portrays a distinct group of people, enabling a UX designer to focus on specific design targets instead of everybody. Therefore, UX designers can create innovative designs for diverse kinds of people, rather than generic masses. In the last few months, I have come to an understanding that UX designers can surmise and properly utilize personas if they understand the fundamentals of human-centered design first.
Types of personas
Using personas is one method amongst many others that a UX designer can use as a model during ideation sessions. Lene Nielsen, a PhD and specialist in personas, describes four perspectives a persona can take ensuring valuable insight into the project. Let us take a look:
A goal-oriented persona determines the level of advancement the user would prefer to utilise to reach their goals as they interact with the product or service. The question here is what does the average user want to accomplish with the product? With enough user research, the UX designer can assume the value of the product to the user, and they can bring their design to life by examining the goals of their target audience.
The central focus of the role-based perspective is on behavior. These personas massively incorporate data from quantitative as well as qualitative sources. The role-based perspective focuses on the user’s role in real life so that the UX designers can make better design decisions. The two major questions that UX designers can ask themselves is where will the product be used. And what functions are served by this role?
Engaging personas are a combination of both goal-oriented and role-based personas. These synthesized personas help UX designers who utilize them to engage with them. The goal here is to engage with the persona and view them as real people, to serve them with the best product. These personas examine the backgrounds, behaviors, and emotions of the users creating relevance.
A fictional persona usually arises from the experience of UX designers. UX designers opinionate their typical users based on previous interactions with users and products alike. These personas can be flawed to a large extent but can be used as an initial description of the user. These personas also create chances of early association with the target audience in the ux design process. However, those personas shouldn’t be used as an example of developing the product or service.
What are personas in SAFe?
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a modern agile scaling framework mainly used for the development of IT products. SAFe addresses enterprise development from strategy to operations by adding four different levels, namely: value stream, portfolio, team levels, and program to their model. While evaluating options for the entire enterprise, the model implicitly addresses design. In essence, the design thinking process and SAFe have the same idea. But each framework has a distinctive way of looking at things. Design thinking addresses why and validates those assumptions. Whereas, SAFe looks at the how as in the resources needed to deliver the best value for the product. Both frameworks prefer to emphasize their respective question a bit more, making them complements each other.
In SAFe, UX teams develop personas to maintain reciprocity with their target audience. These personas depict different folks who similarly use a product or solution, providing an in-depth understanding of how real users would interact with it. Personas drive product development, and several SAFe practices, furthering the market segmentation strategy to reinforce the product or solution for the consumers.
Personas are a valuable test technique in several methodologies, especially in UX and Agile. Using persona templates is notably beneficial where clients will directly interfere with the process. Investigating the needs, and problems and thinking of these personas can help UX designers resolve issues that are not yet visible to the developers.
When developers prototype various functions or problems, it is an efficient option to utilize several personas whose behavioral patterns can estimate how to reiterate the design usefully. The UX designer, however, should know who exactly will be their end-user, why they will use the product, and what problems they may face. Answering these questions can help the UX designer come up with an innovative user-centric solution that would make the product function better.
Persona research is conducted to understand the target audience and what motivates them. There are three ways to figure that out:
Surveys – online and offline
Surveys with open-ended questions are critical to understanding how users frame their needs and motivations. The goal is to get in their heads and make sure the personas are based on what real people think.
Interviews – in-person and online
Interviewing an already existing audience can provide valuable insights into their habits, inhibitions, and expectations of the product or service. However, conducting interviews can be labor-intensive and costly. However, the answers can clarify a lot. Researchers can always go back to ask their respondents to elaborate on their answers, gaining insights that were not available through surveys.
Exit surveys – online and offline
These surveys mostly pose a single question. The question to be asked depends on the goals of the product or service. Experimenting with the question is alright to figure out which question gets the highest responses, providing valuable insight.
Now, the researchers must distill their qualitative research to define one or more personas.
For example, Vinita is a 38-year-old woman who cares about the environment and reducing her carbon footprint. She wouldn’t mind paying a little extra to make sure the product or service she’s purchasing is sustainable.
So the questions posed are –
- What are her needs?
- What are her wants?
- What are her behavioral drivers?
- What are her obstacles to conversion?
- What are her expectations from the user experience?
While picking a name and age isn’t that crucial, it helps UX designers to visualize a person behind the persona. Vinita feels more realistic instead of Persona No. 1.
After qualitative research, quantitative methods can help you legitimize the qualitative analysis. Google Analytics can round out the personas with quantitative findings and showcase the behavior of crucial target groups more efficiently.
Always remember a good persona would include:
- Name, age, gender, and an image – to make them feel real
- Goals, attitudes, and concerns – the whole nine yards!
- Relevant skills and experience – to be able to establish empathy.
- Context indicating interaction – to gain valuable insights.
Customer personas are a useful tool. As is the case with all tools, this too comes with one flaw – its user. Nonetheless, they can render great insights into how to create a better product or service. Developing engaging personas begins with in-depth user research. Persona-based testing can help the UX designer step out of their biased notions about how the user would utilize the product or service. So, when creating a persona, the UX designer should strive for a balanced approach between research data and fictional details to ensure applicability.
The applicability and user empathy of personas can be enhanced by validating them through persona-based testing. This approach involves using the personas as a reference point to evaluate and iterate on the design of a product or service. By stepping out of their own biases and assumptions, the UX designer can better understand how different personas might interact with the design and identify areas for improvement.
To conclude the key to creating effective personas lies in striking a balance between research data and fictional details. This approach ensures that the personas are rooted in real user insights while also being relatable and empathetic. By leveraging personas as a tool, UX designers can gain valuable insights to inform their decision-making and create products or services that truly meet the needs of their target audience.