Strategy | October 19, 2016

5 Best Practices for Developing UX Personas

5 Best Practices for Developing UX Personas

The way users interact with your product helps to inform design, and that is what personas are for. In your next project, there will come a time when you must decide what is in your user’s best interest.

Today’s consumers are a tough crowd. They expect products, services, and information that are timely and catered to their specific needs and desires. I took some time to talk with our User Experience Design Lead to get the best tips for using personas well.

Overall, it’s difficult to identify with people who are not like us, who do things differently, and who have different end-goals. UX personas give us a window into the diversity of our users and a tool that allows us to take their perspective and cater to their specific needs.

Instead of team discussions leaning on opinions and personal perspectives, decisions can be made based on research, an understanding of how users really behave, and what they are trying to accomplish. The goal of UX personas is not to represent all audiences or address all needs of the website, but instead, to gather a solid sampling of primary users to determine a starting place for meeting a business’s goals. In short, the use of a minimum of two personas in the design process is what connects the product to the end user. Design for the primary, accommodate the secondary.

If you are not familiar with “persona” concept, here is a popular persona poster template by Creative Companion that will give your project a jump-start.

Feeling lost? Here is our take on best practices.

1. Research and revise

Your persona is only as good as your research, so make sure you gather as much information as possible before you make conclusions. Collect information from all sources: interviews with stakeholders who possess information about final users  (User Experience team, Marketing, Data Analyst, Product Owner, Product Manager, Customer care, etc.), data from Google Analytics and other analytical tools that you have in place, customer surveys, real users interviews, social media, etc.

Next step is to make sense of it all. You can begin by compiling everything you know about your customers and grouping your findings in a spreadsheet. You might start to see patterns: the industries in which customers work, what devices they use, at what time of day, and where. Look for themes/characteristics that are specific, relevant, and universal to the system and its users. Combine and prioritize your rough UX personas. Separate them into primary, secondary, and, if necessary, complementary categories. Typically, you will have roughly 3-5 personas and their identified characteristics. Make sure to make them realistic and develop the appropriate descriptions of each personas background, motivations, and expectations.

UX Personas Research

2. Make it memorable

Now it’s time to come up with names and representations for your UX personas. It is a good practice to use a photo of a fictional person, an illustration, or an icon. The important part is that these personas should be distinct and memorable. You want your colleagues to remember what “Bryan the Marketing Consultant” represents as soon as you mention him. Another important aspect is conciseness. Help your reader to understand persona’s background, personality, and motivations in just a few lines. Use narrative style and common language to allow easy reading and stickiness. Write a quote for each persona to give your reader an idea of what “Bryan” would typically say. Just don’t go into too many details. Stick to what’s important.

3. Understand persona end goals

Do you have a clear vision of what your users’ needs are? What features should your product have to delight your primary persona while satisfying your secondary target audience? This is the time for you to figure out your persona’s goals, priorities, and expectations. User experience goals help us to prioritize user interest regarding interactive systems. This could be used for interaction design decisions or as determinant for adding a new feature. Use interview and survey information to define a set of most significant User Experience Goals from your persona point of view. Figuring out your persona’s experience goals on the early stages will help you make smarter decisions along the way.

4. Create user scenarios

In order to fully understand your UX personas, it is essential to create user scenarios that reflect their interactions with the software/website/app in a particular context to achieve their goal. A scenario tells the story of how the product will be used in the future. It is guided by users’ needs and goals, rather than by system’s features and capabilities. Scenarios are written from the persona’s perspective and articulate the main user flows. Scenarios will help you prioritize requirements and make adjustments to accommodate your user preferences.

UX Personas Design Wireframe

5. Share

Finally, share your UX personas with as many colleagues as possible. Personas should always be readily available to everyone who is working on the project. Your goal is to create a shared understanding of just who you design for and how everyone can better serve them. Sharing your persona’s will allow your whole team to get on the same page and create better products.

The way users interact with your product helps to inform design, and that is what personas are for. In your next project, there will come a time when you must decide what is in your user’s best interest. UX personas can give you real insights into your audience, which will lead to a much better product or service. Just remember that personas change over time, so create them, learn from them, share them, and then don’t forget to revisit them and make changes as needed!

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By: Irina Anthony
Irina is an intern on the marketing team at Social Driver and a digital marketing student at Georgetown University.
By: Jake Reid
Jake approaches front-end development with an integrative philosophy in which content, design, and code work together to produce the highest quality results. Previously Jake worked as a developer and UX researcher for a non-profit organization which focused on health, education, and environment.