Last modified on Mon 08 Jan 2024

Personas are fictional representations of target users that are created to help you and the client better understand and empathize with their intended audience. They are detailed descriptions of typical users, including their characteristics, goals, needs, and behaviors.

Key thing: make sure that information included in the persona document is actionable and product-related. Too often personas are fluffy documents telling you that the target audience “watches Netflix in their free time”, which is an interesting factoid, but you can’t use it in any meaningful way.

There are 3 different ways in which you can build personas, depending on research (not) used to back up the data.

Proto personas

Proto personas are created with no methodological research. They are built based on the team’s (sometimes educated) guesses of who their users are and what they want. The main goal of the proto personas is the quick alignment. They are particularly useful as a starting point during the discovery process as they help us build empathy towards the end users. Downside is that they can sometimes reinforce the echo chamber of incorrect team assumptions about users.

Qualitative personas

Creating personas through exploratory qualitative research is the most common approach when building user personas. This involves conducting user interviews with a mid-sized number of participants, typically ranging from 5 to 30, and then categorizing users based on common attitudes, goals, challenges, and expectations. The main drawbacks are that they do not indicate the proportion of the user base each persona type represents, and that we are (unconsciously) facing the risk of overemphasizing outlier perspectives.

Statistical personas

This is the most time consuming and skill sensitive way of developing user personas. In this case we use our hypothesis and qualitative insights to create a survey, which is then distributed to a large user sample (ideally more than 100 participants). After distributing the survey, statistical analysis is applied to the responses to group users into similar clusters. This method reduces human bias in the clustering process, makes sure the outliers are not overrepresented and lets us know what percentage of our total user base and/or revenue each persona represents.

Buyer persona vs user persona

This is not the only way in which personas can be categorised. Based on the relationship the persona has with your product, we can further distinguish two other types: buyer persona and user persona. The former is the one making the purchase decision and the latter is the one actually using your product. Their needs, motivations and priorities might be different.

What should be included

Make sure your persona covers these key areas:

Example of a persona