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How to Create a Customer Persona

How to Create a Customer Persona

Have you ever seen a product and thought, "Who in their right mind would ever buy this?' You might have thought the product was utterly pointless or even ridiculous. Perhaps it was even in the discount section. No surprise there. Sadly, the likeliest reason the product failed so miserably was that its designers never really bothered getting to know their target audience. They probably created a product that they personally thought would be cool or useful but didn't take the time to investigate if others would approve it as well.

A picture of a chicken harness, bacon bandages, and pickle lip balm
No offense, but how high of a demand is there for chicken harnesses, bacon bandages, and pickle lip balm?

What could they have done to avoid such a blunder? They should have invested their time in creating a user persona. While using a user persona is not a guarantee of a product's success, it certainly helps its chances with the correct target audience. And isn't that what a business ultimately wants? There's no point in creating products that nobody wants or even needs.

This article will explore helpful information about what a good user persona needs to include and the necessary steps to creating a successful user persona. No time to waste! Let's begin!

What is a customer persona?

The customer persona was developed back in the 90s as a way to gain insight into a product's target audience. Basically, they're invented characters that are based on user data designed to help you better understand your customers. They are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users. User personas are typically presented in a 1 or 2-page document.

"Descriptions include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and background information, as well as the environment in which a persona operates. Designers usually create user persona template templates, which include a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character, as well as context-specific details." - Patrick Faller

According to Matt Ellis from 99designs, personas take many of the abstract areas of business and make them easier to digest, such as:

  • Data and analytics
  • User experience
  • Customer pain points
  • Social media
  • Site design
  • Writing voice
  • Brand identity

Here is an example template of a user persona:

User persona template
User persona template from Mockplus

Why are they important?

Without a doubt, being able to understand your target audience is crucial in the process of designing outstanding products. Creating a user persona helps to figure out who the product is designed for.

"By understanding the expectations, concerns, and motivations of target users, it’s possible to design a product that will satisfy users’ needs and therefore be successful." - Patrick Faller

Also, an important benefit of utilizing user personas is that they help to create empathy with your audience. They aid in understanding people's needs, expectations, and even pain points. Designers can place themselves in potential consumers' perspectives and make the necessary changes to their products.

Design process diagram
Here we can see how empathy plays an important role in the design thinking process.

Another benefit is that personas turn your consumers into real people that you can get to know more deeply. It turns the abstract idea of a "user" or "consumer" into an actual person with feelings, likes, and dislikes.

Diagram showing how a user persona works

What information should a good user persona include?

Keep in mind that a user persona shouldn't be made up of random information and characteristics. The research that goes into forming personas occurs early in the design process.

User persona vector image
A user persona shouldn't just be a collection of random ideas.

According to Matt Ellis, each persona should include:

  • Name: This can be realistic or completely invented. It's up to you.
  • Photo: Putting a face to the name is helpful. Avoid using pictures of people you know, including celebrities. Stock photos are fine to use.
  • Personal quote/motto: This helps to make the persona seem more real.
  • Bio: Create a backstory to make the person relatable.
  • Demographics: Age, sex, income, location, job title—whatever attributes are relevant to your industry.
  • Personality Traits: Personality traits are one of the most useful features of personas. Different personalities are attracted to different products.
  • Motivations: This helps you get inside the customer’s head and understand how they think.
  • Goals and frustrations: The scope of these is in direct relation to your needs. You can tell a lot about a person based on which brands they like and what kind of people influence their decisions.

User persona checklist image
Here's a handy checklist for creating user personas.

Now, some companies like to include additional information which they find useful. According to 99designs, you may also want to consider:

  • Preferred social media channels
  • Daily routine
  • Tech skill
  • Myers-Brigg personality types
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Education level
  • Job responsibilities/duties
  • Shopping and product research habit

How do I create a persona?

Now that we have a better understanding of what a persona is and how it works, let's look at a few practical steps to create your marketing personas.

1. Use real data

Simply put, don't make stuff up. You cannot rely on made-up information. You must always use real data for your personas. For this to work, the first thing to do is to conduct user research. This will help you to understand your target audience's motivations and behaviors.

One way to collect real data can be by interviewing a sufficient number of people who represent a target audience. However, there are some cases when this isn't a possibility. In that case, if your product is available on the market and has real users, you can use customer support logs and web analytics to create a persona.

"The truth is, your personas are only as strong as the data supporting them. The more you stray from empirical data, the less effective the persona will be." - 99designs
User personas vector image
Always use data collected from real people to create user personas that work.

2. Create several personas to represent different groups

Personas represent large customer groups. Sometimes your customer base might be very diverse and cover different segments. In this case, it's recommended that you create several personas. Your goal should be to have one persona representing one group each.

However, some companies really only need one persona. It depends on what needs you have as a business. Whether it be one persona or several, they should be tailored to fit your company's needs.

User personas image
Depending on what needs you have as a business, you might need to create more than one persona.

3. Use customer surveys

Ideally, the best option to collect data for user personas is through direct interviews with people from your target audience. Unfortunately, this isn't always a viable option for every business. Interviews require time and resources that you simply might not have available.

If this is your case, then another good option is customer surveys. They are a fast option for data collection. With these types of surveys, you have the ability to ask exactly what you need and can even identify personality traits from your target audience. Your performance analytics can also answer demographic questions

Survey vector image
Customer surveys help to eliminate the guesswork to create more accurate user personas.

4. Identify behavioral patterns

Once you analyze the findings from your research, then you can find patterns to group similar people together into types of users. Here is a strategy you can use suggested by Kim Goodwin:

  • Once the research is finished, list all of the behavioral variables (ways in which users’ behavior differed).
  • Map each interviewee (or real-life user attributes) against the appropriate set of variables.
  • Identify trends (find a set of people clustering across six or eight variables). These grouping trends will then form the basis of each persona.
Behavior vector image
Identifying similar behaviors in groups of people can help to create more customized and effective personas.

5. Create scenarios of interaction

Personas get their value when they are linked to a scenario. Scenarios help designers understand the main user flows. They aid in understanding how a potential customer would interact with a product in a specific context. Scenarios should be written from the persona’s perspective.

According to Smashing Magazine, goal-directed design considers 3 things – persona, scenario and goal:

Image representing persona, scenario, and goal
Personas do not have real value until they are set up in certain contexts.

Make It Personal

Without a doubt, the key to creating a persona that works is making it as "real" as possible. Personas shouldn't simply be made-up characters. They need to be created using data collected from real people that will interact with your products or services.

"Designers don’t always know what is best — but sometimes users do, and that is what personas are for: to stand up and represent real users, since real users can’t be there when the design process takes place." - Shlomo Goltz, Smashing Magazine

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Laura Amarillas
By
Laura Amarillas
On
November 2, 2022
min read