25 Ideas on How To Use Personas In Product Development

Jack O'Donoghue Avatar


Have you ever felt sorry for those dated personas collecting dust in an awkwardly named folder deep within the basement of your team server?

A monumental amount of work goes into creating user personas. And when used correctly, they can create a monumental amount of value.

In this article, we look at 25 ways to get more value out of your user personas and give tips on keeping them up to date and adding value way into the future.

25 Ways To Use Personas In Product Development

  1. Use Personas to Guide Decision-Making in Meetings
  2. Identify and Define Your Target Audience
  3. Consolidate the Most Valuable Research Findings
  4. Help Colleagues Empathize with Customers
  5. Provide Context for Problems and Solutions Discussions
  6. Use Personas as a Starting Point for Ideation
  7. Write Realistic and Accurate User Stories
  8. Develop User Scenarios to Inform Design and Testing
  9. Give Context to Customer Journey Maps
  10. Decide Who to Recruit for User Research
  11. Promote Accessibility and Address Additional Needs
  12. Prioritize Features Based on Key User Segments
  13. Identify Pain Points, User Needs, and Goals
  14. Describe a User’s Information Needs
  15. Evaluate Design Choices and Decisions
  16. Onboard New Designers and Team Members
  17. Guide Tone of Voice and Reading Age of Content
  18. Communicate How Users Currently Solve Problems
  19. Capture User Expectations Relating to the Product
  20. Understand the Motivations and Behaviors of Your Users
  21. Create Personalized and Targeted Marketing Campaigns
  22. Optimize User Flows for Specific Customers
  23. Evaluate the Effectiveness of the User Onboarding Process
  24. Inform Product Roadmap Planning and Decisions
  25. Determine the Most Effective Channels for Customer Communication

What Are User Personas?

A user persona is a design document that describes useful information about your user.

Usually 1 or 2 pages long, a persona contains useful insights that help the UX Designer and product development teams make decisions about what to build and how to build it.

A user persona is a document that summarizes useful insights about a target user.

A typical persona describes the goals, needs, pain points, and behaviors of a specific segment of target users. A range of different personas is usually created to represent the broad range of user segments and potential users that are likely to use your product.

The process of conducting user research gives us the depth of insight we need to make informed design decisions about creating value for our users.

By distilling these insights into a concise design document, or persona, we make it easier to share this information with our extended team. Allowing them to develop empathy for the users and leverage the insights we’ve discovered to inform their decision-making.

Persona template

How to Create a User Persona?

An effective and reliable user persona is the product of thorough user research.

Whether this research is conducted as a research project before the product design starts or if it’s a process of continuous discovery throughout the project. It’s important that the information contained in the persona is evidence-based and comes from real users.

Here are three steps on how to create user personas for use in product development:

1. Conduct User Research and Collect Goals, Needs, Pain Points, and Behaviors

All good customer personas start with deliberate and intentional user research.

Through a series of user interviews, online surveys, contextual observations, and analytics analysis, we gather a range of insights and data points that help us tell the story of our user’s experience and expectations.

All good customer personas start with deliberate and intentional user research in order to understand your users.

Start by identifying who your user groups might be. If you’re starting from scratch, this will likely be your best guess based on any data you have available to you.

Then, decide your learning objectives for the research you’ll conduct next. For example:

  • We want to understand what goals and tasks users have related to our domain.
  • We want to understand what steps and tools users currently use to complete these tasks.
  • We want to learn what parts of the process users find frustrating or delightful.

Once you’ve thought about the specific learning objectives for your research, you can plan ways to engage with these users to ask them questions and gather feedback. For example, a user interview is a good way to learn about why users do what they do and think what they think. Surveys and analytics are good ways to understand what users do and how many of them do it.

Some typical questions that are asked in user persona interviews are:

  • Tell me about an experience you had completing a task related to this domain.
  • Tell me why this task was important to you.
  • Tell me why you reacted the way you did at each stage.

These are open-ended questions designed to get the user to speak freely. Our role is to listen carefully and probe them to speak more about any points that are interesting or notable.

2. Affinity Map the Findings to Discover Themes, Patterns, and Segments

Once you’ve conducted your user research, you should have lots of notes, recordings, and images up on a wall or digital whiteboard, or sometimes people use spreadsheets.

This step aims to take all of your notes and turn them into useful, actionable insights that can be used to create your personas.

Affinity mapping is the process of organizing notes, ideas, and observations into groups and categories that represent themes and patterns. These themes and patterns are then used to articulate the insights that you discovered.

Affinity mapping is a process of organizing notes, ideas, and observations into groups and categories that represent themes and patterns.

For example, if many users mentioned that they ‘need their privacy to be respected,’ this could become a theme. You would then group all of the related notes and observations under this heading. Once you’ve created all of your groups, you can use the information within the theme to articulate a user need using the words of the user.

For example, “I want my data to be stored safely and not sold to third parties, I want to be given confidence that this is the case, and I want to have full control over my own data.”

Once you have a range of themes and insights, you can start to group them based on which type of user expressed those ideas. For example, one user group may have a privacy concern, whereas another user group may be more characterized by their gung ho approach to privacy because they value speed and efficiency. This could signal the need for two different user personas because each group has distinct common traits.

After combing through your data and refining the segments and insights. You can start to document your user personas. Either use a persona template or reference a persona example to begin with, or design your own based on your own specific needs. Usually, a customer persona has multiple quadrants that contain different user information. These quadrants could be persona names, behaviors, tools and technology, goals or jobs, needs, wants, and behaviors.

Remember to design your personas based on what will be most useful to your specific project. Although most personas have similar types of information. The nuance you incorporate into your personas should help you to make effective decisions throughout the rest of your project. So ask yourself how this information will help me make decisions about the user experience at every stage.

3. Document Your Findings and Share Them With Your Team

Other than conducting ux research with actual users. Another critical factor in ensuring customer success is how well the design team shares their findings and educates the rest of the product development team about user behavior.

By helping the product manager and product team understand your customer persona and the potential customer they represent, you give them the power to make decisions about any product feature they have an influence over.

Personas should be embedded throughout the product design process.

Effective personas empower teams with a more complete understanding of who their users are. Personas should be embedded throughout the product design process, so everyone can picture the ideal customer when making decisions about ux design and product strategy.

The tips listed in this article can help you decide how best to use your user personas to create the most value for your team and, ultimately, your users.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using User Personas?

Despite the many benefits of using user personas, there are a few disadvantages to consider:

1. They Shouldn’t Replace Real User Interaction

User personas are a good way to synthesize your user research into a format that can be referenced throughout the project and shared easily with the wider team. But they shouldn’t replace interaction with real users to gather additional insights to help you make more specific design decisions. You should still validate your decisions and conduct usability tests to ensure your designs are easy to use and intuitive.

2. They Should Be Updated Regularly

The world moves quickly, trends change fast, and new tools and technologies come and go. These factors can impact actual user behavior and expectations, rendering your personas outdated. By speaking to your users regularly, you can listen out for signs that your users behavior has changed. Then you can update your personas accordingly. Once a persona goes out of date, the insights are no longer reliable and could lead you to make bad decisions.

3. They Should Be Thoroughly Researched

It’s tempting to make assumptions and use existing research to create your customer personas. While this can be better than no research – when done right. User personas should be produced from thorough research and interaction with real users. Proto personas, or provisional personas can be used as a starting point. But it’s important that you continue to develop these ad hoc personas as you speak with users to make them more reliable and accurate.

4. They Shouldn’t Be Overly Fictionalized

Many persona templates and examples circulate online contain a lot of fiction and data that isn’t useful or actionable. If you want to include a name, photo, and story for your persona, base it on the real people you interviewed throughout the research. Don’t fictionalize them too much because they can be misleading if they aren’t accurate. If your team suspects they’re made up, they might lose trust in the persona process completely and undermine your efforts to do good user research in the future.

5. You Should Have Multiple Personas Reflective of All Segments

More often than not, our user base is broad and diverse. Many groups of people have different goals, motivations, behaviors, and expectations. For example, in a marketplace, the person buying and the person selling are two very different groups. There will also be people that buy on impulse and others that buy after diligent planning and research. These clear distinctions could warrant creating a different person for each group. Accessibility personas are also useful to help identify users with additional needs that may have unique requirements of your platform and remember, when we design for accessibility, we design for everyone.

Marketing Persona vs. Buyer Persona vs. UX Persona

Marketing personas, buyer personas, and user personas all have overlap but differ because the person creating them has unique tasks and goals.

A marketing persona is used to design marketing campaigns. They’re created using market research data. Therefore it’s useful for them to have information about the desires, expectations, and motivations of their audience. This helps them to create campaigns that resonate and choose marketing channels that will reach them more efficiently.

Marketing personas, buyer personas, and user personas are all different ways of understanding your target audience.

A buyer persona is used to select, design, manufacture and sell products. They’re useful in commerce businesses where you need to create product ranges that appeal to different segments and design your user experience accordingly.

User personas – the subject of this article – are designed to help us create software. The software must be useful, functional, and easy to use. So that’s why we look for information about tasks, needs, and pain points. Because we can use this information to make focused and targeted products.

Regardless of what you name your customer persona. Remember to be deliberate in identifying exactly how your personas will help your process. Then create your personas to meet your specific requirements. That way, they’ll offer targeted and unique value to your team and project.

Key Takeaways

  1. User personas are design documents that contain useful information about users to help UX Designers and product development teams make decisions.
  2. A typical persona contains goals, needs, pain points, and behaviors of a specific customer segment of target customer.
  3. Creating effective user personas requires thorough user research conducted through interviews, surveys, observations, or analytics analysis to get insights into the user’s experience and expectations.
  4. Personas are useful to help the wider team, including product management to understand the target user and each different persona that might be using the product.
  5. Affinity mapping is used to organize notes into themes which can then be used as the basis for creating your own custom-designed persona template with multiple quadrants containing different types of data on each one.
  6. User personas should be based on a real person and not replace real interaction with users but should be updated regularly based on feedback from them; they also need to have been thoroughly researched before use so they’re accurate representations rather than a fictional character that could lead you astray in making bad decisions regarding UX design, product strategy and Design Thinking.
  7. Finally it’s important to remember when designing multiple personas reflective of all segments – including accessibility – to tailor them specifically for their intended purpose e.g marketing vs buyer vs ux etc..

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Jack O'Donoghue Avatar