In marketing your business or designing a product or service, Persona Development is the task of creating a representation of different types of people who will interact with your product or service.
These are generally fictional characters that may possibly use your business, brand, website or product.
The fictional persona is a representation of goals and behaviour of a potential group of customers or users.
These hypothetical characters, or personas, are ideally developed through data from interviews or previous interactions with a product.
Where no data is present the persona can be developed, however, until validated the proposed persona or customer segment is an assumption which is a risk to a business or product.
Persona Development usually ends with a Persona Profile which is a document about one to two pages long which describes the persona's demographics, background, goals skills, attitudes and environments.
Each product may have multiple Personas as they may have different customer segments which relate to the product/business value proposition.
Represent a major user group for your site, app, product or service;
Express and focus on the major needs and expectations of the most important user groups;
Give a clear picture of the user's expectations and how they're likely to use the site, app, product or service;
Aid in uncovering universal features and functionality; and
Describe real people with backgrounds, goals, and values.
Why we use it
Personas help to focus business/marketing/feature development decisions by humanising the user or customer.
Persona profiles can also bring alignment and clarity to a team by creating a common language for a team to speak or refer to when developing a business or product.
They also offer a quick and inexpensive way to test and prioritise features/services/offerings throughout the process, as part of continually improving your offering.
In addition, they can help:
Stakeholders and leaders evaluate decisions;
Information architects develop informed wireframes, interface behaviours and labelling;
Designers create the overall look and feel of a product;
System engineers/developers decide which approaches to take based on user behaviours; and
Copywriters ensure site content is written to the appropriate audiences.
How we use Persona Profiles
Persona development is an ongoing process because people’s wants/needs change.
Persona Profiles should be developed at the beginning of product development or starting a business, and should be approached on an ongoing basis based on data that is acquired throughout the process.
Multiple Personas should be developed for any given project/business, however creating only three or four personas is best, as the goal of Persona profiles is not to represent all audiences or address all needs of the user/customer, but instead, focus on the major needs of the most important user groups.
To ensure your personas are accurate representations of your users and have the support of the stakeholders throughout the process, you should:
Conduct user research: Answer the following questions – Who are your users and why are they using the system? What behaviours, assumptions and expectations colour their view of the product or your business?
Condense the research: Look for themes/characteristics that are specific, relevant and universal to the system and its users;
Brainstorm: Organise elements into Persona groups that represent your target users. Name or classify each group;
Refine: Combine and prioritise the rough Personas. Separate them into primary, secondary, and, if necessary, complementary categories. You should have roughly three to five personas and their identified characteristics; and
Make them realistic: Develop the appropriate description for each persona's background, motivations, and expectations. Do not include a lot of personal information. Be relevant and serious, humour is not appropriate.
Personas generally include the following key pieces of information:
Persona group (eg. web manager);
Job titles and major responsibilities;
Demographics such as age, education, ethnicity and family status;
The goals and tasks they are trying to complete using the site;
Their physical, social and technological environment;
A quote that sums up what matters most to the persona as it relates to your site; and
Casual pictures representing that user group.
How To Work Through The Exercise
The best way to work through the exercise is to base the Persona profiles on data and not assumption.
If you already have customers the best way is to analyse your customers and look to see if there are trends to the types of people that purchase your product or service.
If you don't have customers, the best way to get the data you need is to do a competitor analysis and to work though the problem solution interview exercise.
Look at similar products and services and look at the people who are followers/contacts/advocates of the business.
After analysing the data start to work through the template provided above.
Filling out the profile
Referencing previous clients/competitors clients start with their gender/age. Do you know someone who fits these demographics?
What is their name?
I don't generally encourage you to name your personas after people you know but you can create a variation of a person you know while naming them.
For example Tim becomes Tom. It’s not the person you know but someone like someone you know.
What is their classification?
This is generally the first thing you think of when you identify this person. In the example template above, Emily is a young student. That is how we would communicate who she is to another person. It’s the first thing that comes to mind. Another example is Rob is a CEO, so the classification here is CEO for Rob.
What is their occupation?
An occupation can be a classification but not always. What is their salary? This is important as it helps to identify the persona's motivators, whether they are qualified to purchase your product and it's also helpful when segmenting lists.
What is their background?
What is their level of education, family status? Where did they grow up? How did they arrive to this point in life? Who are they? What did their parents do? Why have they made the decisions they have made?
What are their wants?
What do they want? In life/ in work/in their family? I classify a want as something they can live without but would prefer to have.
What do they need?
These are things they need in life. The best way to filter where they sit is to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Ask yourself, has this person had the base of their needs met? Where are they on the pyramid?
What are their goals?
What do they want to achieve? Where do they want to get to?
What are their frustrations (pain)?
What is their pain? Do they have a disconnect from achieving their goals? What are they? Write a list of them. Does your product/service resolve the disconnect and help them achieve their goals?
What are their motivations?
Why do they do what they do? What is the underlying force as to why they act the way they do. I believe that understanding this is the single most important field when developing Persona Profiles. If your product/service is aligned with their goals and underlying emotional motivators, then you are positioned in a powerful place.
To use bodybuilding as an example:
Some will say that their motivation is to be strong and for some personas that may be very true.
But ask the question: Why do they want to be strong?
What causes them to want to be stronger and stronger? Being strong is the outcome of the motivation.
Ask why? Why? Why? Until you understand the persona profile.
Understanding your customer is critical
Understanding your customer is fundamental to success in any business/service or product.
Persona Profiling helps you understand your customer and how they relate to your business value proposition.
Try reading the Business Model Canvas, once you know your customer segments you can look to understand where your business interacts with your customer through developing User Journeys Maps.