How to create a user persona

In the early days of digital work, designers would create things from their own perspective, as they were the prominent people involved in the design process. However, this resulted in a significant disconnect between site owners and users. They didn’t know how to create a user persona as it wasn’t common practice then.

To improve this experience, marketers started to conduct market research on potential users before proceeding with any digital designs. This was known as ”market ethnography .” It allowed companies to better understand their users’ needs and expectations based on their target demographic. It also helped these companies relate with their audiences more effectively since they knew what they were developing.

A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Ethan created with UXPressia.
A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Ethan created with UXPressia.

This development led to one of the most essential components in UX design, the user persona.

What is a user persona?

A user persona represents your average user based on market research and other sources. In the case of digital products, a persona includes general traits, motivations, fears, behaviors, and technical knowledge. Essentially any pertinent information that helps designers understand their target audience.

For example, suppose the product designer knows that users usually never use computers. In that case, they can consciously decide to create a website or app less complicated to navigate to avoid confusing people who aren’t as tech-savvy. In this way, a persona helps designers eliminate any misunderstandings from the get-go, so they can build products tailored specifically to their target demographic.

One of the most significant mistakes product or website designers make is designing something that appeals to everyone. When creating a digital product, people often try to include as many different demographics as possible to maximize potential revenue. However, a product can’t appeal equally to all these demographics since each has particular criteria and motivations behind its actions.

A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Alex created with UXPressia.
A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Alex created with UXPressia.

If you were designing an app aimed at young females aged between 19 and 25 years old, your main aim would be to improve their lives somehow, rather than creating something that would appeal equally to all people of this demographic.

Therefore, user personas are essential for product designers since they easily visualize the type of person they are designed for and how they will interact with their product. And when developers create products geared towards specific types of users, it always guarantees a much better end result since these products reflect the needs and want of each group much more accurately. 

A persona typically contains information like:

  • Name (and/or title) 
  • Age range 
  • Occupation 
  • Key skills/knowledge 
  • Related interests/hobbies  
  • Common behaviors  
  • Goals  
  • Pain points
A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Gerald created with UXPressia.
A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Gerald created with UXPressia.

In short, user personas represent the actual people who use a product. They contain a detailed list of characteristics, goals, and motivations. A persona is an archetype created by the combination of these elements. Personas can represent one or more real users depending on how many specific details have been included in the description.

How to create a user persona

Let’s say you’re designing a new NFT collection geared towards women. You’ve done your research, identified your primary markets. Now what? Take that data and start shaping a narrative around a few different types of people who might interact with your product or service. Without personas, designers can focus on what is best for themselves rather than the end-users. If you’re still unsure why this approach is so helpful, look at the following example…

\You’ve been asked to create a mobile application for an international hotel chain. As part of this project, it’s essential to know who the users will be to develop features that appeal directly to them.

This is when designers turn to user personas. These are essentially made-up characters that represent your average customers. Personas allow designers to focus on real human needs, goals, and behaviors in their research and analysis. It also helps determine if the final design solution will be successful before implementing it within a prototype or website/app build.

Who is your primary persona?

Take some time to think about who might use your products the most. Students, families, or retirees? Think about what this group has in common and their goals when they use this platform. A good rule of thumb is to focus on one primary persona instead of multiple ones because it makes the design process much easier to manage. You can then develop secondary personas later if needed.

What are their demographics? 

Now that you’ve decided on a persona, start to think about what they’re like as a person. What are their age, location, and background? Are they male or female? How much money do they earn in a year? What sort of job do they have? Knowing these basic facts will help you design certain features in your app/website. For example, would a parent design an app for children to make different decisions from someone younger? Would an older user expect additional features from a website compared to someone living in another country or city? Taking this step will also help remove your personal bias from the equation regarding design decisions.

A user persona depicting a UX Designer named Jesse created with UXPressia.

Now that you have a better understanding of who your users are, start thinking about their motivations for using your products. Ask yourself questions like: 

  • Why will they visit your website in the first place? 
  • Are there any specific things they want or need to do while there? 
  • How will my product make them feel? 
  • What features should I include? 

Think about how your product can impact them positively and negatively. Are people more likely to purchase something if it makes them feel good (i.e., enhances ego)? Or would they instead avoid feeling anxious or afraid (i.e., avoid pain)? Knowing these things will help you design your product accordingly. 

Now that you’ve asked yourself all of the above questions start to think about potential risks or obstacles they might encounter if some aspect isn’t included in the final product? Think back to those fundamental facts we gathered earlier and how those can be used to inform decisions.

Concluding

Lastly, developing user personas early in any design project (even before you start mockups or wireframes) helps you gather valuable insights about your target market. Seeing user goals and motivations in context makes them easier to understand and act upon for everyone involved. This leads to more effective problem solving when unexpected issues come up during development, rather than wasting time trying to find out who your users actually are later down the line.

Further Reading: 


Additionally, you can create user personas like the ones that I sprinkled through this article with UXPressia.

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Categorized as Design

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