DIY User Personas
This article was written by Silvana Churruca between 2011-2014. Silvana is a UX Designer & Researcher with a strong multidisciplinary background: starting with Graphic Design, Arts and Communications, and later specializing in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media, Product and Project Design Management and Communication Design Theory. Follow Silvana on her LinkedIn.
Probably you already know what a persona is – if not, check this out, and probably you, like me, can build your first persona using some of the thousands of persona layouts that you can find on the internet. But as has happened to me, you’ve probably also discovered this is not easy work…
But you know, I love recipes, so here you have my own recipe to build user personas, step by step including 10 elements your persona should have.
I created this guideline with the purpose to make the process of creating personas a simple fill in the blank work, so I think it could be useful for you too. Let me know!
The guideline is structured in 3 points:
- How to, with a step by step guide and the Interview process.
- Layout, presenting the persona layout I use with 10 basic elements.
- Elements, were I describe in details each one of the elements of the layout and the method used to obtain the information and measuring.
Each point follows a What? Why? and How? logic to make it even easier.
1. HOW TO
1.1 Step by step (Modeling personas)
“The personas are archetypes built after a preceding exhaustive observation of the potential users” (UCD method)
A persona should include:
- Social and demographic characteristics.
- Needs, desires, goals
- Habits (consumer habits, behavior)
- Cultural background
- Must do, must never
- User experience goals
All products should have personas - it is the most basic tool for the design experience. The key to identifying our real users' profile, needs, wants, expectations and ending up with a product/service that is user oriented.
A persona is built based on several sources of information: interviews with real users, analytics, marketing, customer care, etc. Below, you have a suggested step-by-step path for building your personas. Recently, I read the Lean UX method discovery and alternative paths to traditional User Centered persona building method, but here I will explain only the method based on traditional UCD.
Step by Step: ‘Building your User Persona’
- 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.)
- Create an initial spectrum of potential users (Based on the information of point 1). This will help you not leave out important factors for your product/service.
- Conduct several real user interviews, selecting participants that match the initial spectrum. (The sample will depend on the number of roles identified in point 2.) Additionally, you could use remote surveys. In the next point, you will see some interview tips.
- Seek patterns. Split interviews and research data into sociodemographic data, motivation, skills and proficiency, personality, etc. Do you spot a trend or pattern? What is the most determinant variable? Use this variable to define your groups. For example, depending on the product, one key variable could be the proficiency on computers, while in another case, it may be some lifestyle characteristic.
- Create various possible scenarios for your Personas (Using information coming from analytics or product-logs and persona motivations, lifestyle, needs, etc.) Alternatively, define User Roles related to the Persona.
- Test Persona – scenario – product/service relationship: What are the major problems, limitations, opportunities of our product? Discuss your results and proposal with your team and stakeholders. Do the necessary adjustments.
- Remember to always use the minimum number of personas for each product. This will help to make your product more accurate. In the case where you have more than one persona, define the Primary persona (the most relevant) with stakeholders.
2. PERSONA’S LAYOUT
Here I will present the layout with the 10 elements I use at work. This layout has emerged from an analysis of many personas' layouts and the selection of the main elements we consider most useful for working. In the next point, three 'elements', you will see which method to follow in order to fill in each one of the elements of the user persona’s layout.
User persona design: 10 elements of User personas
*The original basis for this User Persona layout is a teamwork developed with my colleagues: Gerard Adell, Roger Espona and Ignacio Pastor.
3. ELEMENTS of User Persona’s layout
Now, it is time to fill in all of the different elements of each persona. The purpose of this guideline was create some method that could be applied for different people in the team to create their personas, so we could somehow guarantee that we are using a common approach, not only in the visual aspect, but also, and more important, that we are measuring the same in each case and for each element on the layout. So, next you will find each layout’s element described in details with all the variables included.
This module combines Psychographic, Demographic, and Geographic profiles and the Behavioral profile.
Demographic profile: Age, Gender, Family size, Income, Occupation and Education.
Geographic: Where do your personas live and work? What’s it like there? (Is it a small or a cosmopolitan city?)
Psychographic profile: As Social class, Lifestyle, Activities, Opinions, Motivations and Personality characteristics (see 3.2)
Behavioristic profile: It is a common marketing segmentation but we included other areas more related with the product/service, like User Type (Based on user knowledge, attitude and skills in this case about technology proficiency) and Customer behavior toward product (relationship with our products)
User type: e.g. Novice, Medium, Advanced, Expert. (See 3.13 User type)
Customer behavior toward products. Usage rate, Brand loyalty, User status: potential, first-time, regular, etc, Readiness to buy, Benefits sought, Etc. (See point 3.11 Relationship with…)
Persona’s Name: Give your persona a name. Use only name and initial of last name. Persona name help to use this type of statements during design process:
“This idea would work for Ken, but not so much for Diana”
“Would Joan understand what is happening here?”
- Quick read: help any reader to understand persona’s background, personality and lifestyle in just a few lines.
- The narrative style allows easy reading and stickiness.
- This basic profile is shared with mktg. department segmentation and is a type of content where all stakeholders are used. (common language)
Write short paragraphs in a narrative way (story based) that resumes key points for understanding persona lifestyle, background and motivations.
Personality it is a conflicting module seems to exist in a lot of research models and discussion about this. In order to apply a model that makes sense for our daily work and in agile methodology, I propose a combination of two well known personality models: The 5 Factor model (also known as Big Five) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) based on C. Jung Personality types.
For more details about how to outline personality: read my post about using MBTI and 5 Factors Model.
Why measuring personality it is important?:
- Any user modeling will not be complete without a personality profile. We know now that mosts of human decisions are based on personality and mood bias.
- Help us to create more realistic scenarios and mental models for each persona.
- Help us to better determine what need each user-type.
- Crossing personality with proficiency level, we get a very accurate model of “User-type”.
- Personality will be used for established persona behavior and responses during the construction of an Experience Map, for example.
- Personality tags and Openness/Neuroticism gauges are a clear tool for helping PO, developers and designer to put on the persona’s shoes.
User personas, calculating personality, BigFive, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Based on real user interviews, use: self-reported, in-line reading, behavior and body language to calculate an MBTI type and the corresponding value for the two Big Five variables used.
a- For tagging personality using MBTI, we first apply a basic questionnaire. (See post about MBTI)
b- Include the “Big-Five Openness and Neuroticism“ score. Remember that Openness is an inverse scale, low Neuroticism it is positive, high is negative.
3.3 Referents & Influences
Represent: People, brands and products that influence the relation with key indicators for your product/service. For example: internet, computers and other devices, software and app.
References: Who? People, sites, brand or products become a referent point regarding key indicators to your product/service. For example technology and software.
Influences: Who? (people, site or brand) influence its decisions about key indicators for your product/service. For example, technology and software.
Get a quick understanding of persona influences and references, background expertise, and lifestyle.
Use images to illustrate these variables. This makes information more visual and easy to read.
a- Children: Clare have two children, most of the apps she try are games or activities for them’.
b- Friends: Most app recommendations come from Clare’s friends during a coffee break.
c- iPad: This is the most used device by Clare. Shared with her children, it is a family device.
d-Blogger: Clare has a blog where she writes about personal interest.
3.4 Archetype & Quotes
Archetype it is an attempt to a main classification of user using various information, as Personality, Background, Proficiency, Behavior, User experience goals, etc.
The archetypes should change depending in your product/service domain, but in the example above, for example we suggest this eight archetypes:
Archetypes help you to cluster similar personas.
You will need to define archetypes based in your product/service.
Key Quote below archetype
The key quote simulates a Persona’s comment. It pretends reflect behaviors or persona's attitude as a user. What does he expect, is afraid of, or want?. It could be general or product-related.
A simple sentence that suggests “the user voice” gives impact and “veracity” to our person.
Use interview data. You can combine several real user interviews to create one quote, but try to keep the comment as realistic as possible. Only combine similar user-types and personalities.
Select quotes that you consider key or most relevant. Depending on the persona's characteristics (e.g. archetype and personality), fears may be more relevant than the desires, for example.
Finally, add a note to indicate if the persona was referring to a brand or to a specific product.
3.5 Technology Expertise (Proficiency level)
This element will change depending on the domain of your product. In this layout, the example ICT's proficiency is a key variable to understand our users.
This graphic representation of proficiency by domain helps any reader to easily understand the persona's expertise level.
First, select the variables you want to represent, depending on the product/service domain. In the example we use: It and Internet / Using software / Using mobile -tablets apps / Using social networks but depending on the product related you could need to use different variables.
We split expertise as a progress bar with 4 levels: from the novice to the expert user type.
3.6 Experience Goals
User experience is what the interaction with the system feels like to the users (subjectively). Some authors define Experience Goals as user’s priorities and expectations and others use Experience Goals to reflects how user feel when interact with the product.
When you select experience goals for your persona, try to identify which of them seems most relevant or high priority for that persona.
Experience goals can be define in general way or as product-related:
General: having fun, not feeling stupid or don’t want to waste time.
Product related: feeling confident and secure with the transaction (E.g. a persona using online banking)
User experience goals help us to prioritize user interest relating to interactive systems. This could be used for taking interaction design decisions or as the determination for adding a new feature.
Use interview and survey information to define a set of most significant User Experience Goals from your persona's point of view. In this layout, I use TagCloud to visualize the key UXGoals by hierarchy.
3.7 Devices & Platforms
This module reflects devices and platforms that personas use. Depending on your product/service domain, this module might not be relevant.
In the case of a software product, this module allows you to quickly understand persona skills and habits related to devices, technologies and possible expectations. E.g. What devices do personas have? Are they Mac or PC users?
Define the variables relevant for your product/service.
For this example, we use the Device and Software Platforms.
3.8 Domain details: Used Software / Apps*
This element also should change if you are building personas for a different domain: in this example, the persona belongs to the software domain, but you should replace it for any other related to your own company/product domain.
In the example, this module reflects a persona's software/app consumer habits.
It allows us to understand the interests and habits of the user as a software consumer for their main devices.
We can use a Pie chart to present the most used software-app categories.
3.9 Must Do / Must Never
Must Do and Must Never are basic guidelines for interactions and experiences. Include what personas expect and want (must do) and what frustrates them and annoys them (must never).
This module mixes all of the persona’s elements: Personality + proficiency + User Experience Goals. Basically it's about putting in context or in specific scenarios the User Experience's Goals, adjusting to its personality and experiences.
E.g. : We include “Ease of use” as an Experience Goal of this persona (see 3.10), then one “Must do” tip arising from these could be:
“Hide unnecessary process. This persona is not focused in control, but in facility” (Interaction)
“Need clear text-blocks with more important concepts. Feels overwhelmed with information overload and complexity” (content)
- It is a quick tool for design decision making
- it is easily actionable information
Build the MUST DO / MUST NEVER sentences following the “what” example. Use MUST NEVER to form sentences with stronger emotional effect.
Structure: sentences are composed from a bold phrase (Do / Don’t do), for specific action and normal text, the sentence for resuming the reason why (why).
3.10 Relationship with the brand and the product
This module reflects the persona relationship with a brand and/or a specific product.
The module includes four areas:
a- Seek and Value: Most seek and value content or functionality from our brand (or competitor) for that persona.
b- Level of user: Brand-persona relationship (In the example, we define three levels):
Level 1: Do not know the brand or use our products.
Level 2: Recognize brand but seeks directly into Internet.
Level 3: Know and actively use our products / services.
c- Bubble graph: Two axes in this case participation and frequency. Where participation indicates how much activity the persona has (write comments?) and frequency reflects how often persona visits our brand's site, for example. Depending on the product, this axis could change to reflect another important KPI.
Another KPI could be:
- Brand loyalty
- User status: potential, first-time user, regular
- Benefits sought
d- Relationship Key quote: A brief quote that reflects persona relationship with our brand or product (love it, hate it?, etc).
Resume one useful marketing segmentation: Behavioristic segmentation.
a- Seek and Value: Select top content or functionality for user and organize them by relevance from top to bottom.
b- Customer type: Select the level and copy description following template.
c- Bubble graph: The circle size reflects how many personas use our brand products or a competitor's. Then locate a bubble in the corresponding position of axis x or y depending in the frequency of visits and how participative the persona is (comment, review, rate, etc).
As you have seen, this layout includes elements you should change, in order to fit the corresponding domain of the product / service for which you create the User Persona. However, I think that based on this example, should not consider it difficult to replace them for others relevant to your product.
References and recommended reading:
Jenkinson , A . ( 1994 ) ‘Beyond segmentation’