User Persona: What Is It and How Crucial Is It for Effective UI/UX

September 20, 2017 | Nabanita Nag

Whether you are building a website, an application or a software, there are many ways of developing the User Interface (i.e. UI) and ensure a smooth and consistent User Experience (i.e. UX). But, none are as effective and efficient as User Persona or Persona.

When used effectively, Persona can offer amazing clarity and give a boost to productivity and supercharge the work of designers and developers.

But, what is User Persona?

Personas are nothing but fictitious characters, created for the purpose of representing the target user group for a specific product, application or website. But, that does not mean that personas are the product of fertile imagination. Far from it. Personas are synthesized based on in-depth observation and understanding of the target group they are to represent.

Once put together, a persona represents the entire target group or a significant portion of the target group. Like a real person, a persona has a name (mostly), a picture, a profession, a job title, key responsibilities, a family, an education, and of course personal preferences.

How does a Persona look?

Before we discuss further why you need to invest your time to create a person, or how to create a persona, let us first see how a persona looks like.

User persona

Source: Smashing Magazine

Personas are created as one-page documents that consist of the picture, the name and the detailed description of the character. The description comes with all crucial details that form this fictitious personality. Age, socio-economic background, educational background, family, goals, and aspirations in personal and professional spheres are all covered in the details.

Apart from this information, the document also comes with a quote from the Persona.

History of Personas

In early 80’s Alan Cooper found a new way of designing and developing consumer-centric applications. He interviewed several people from the target audience group to get to know about their lives, ambitions, preferences, pain-points, aspirations, and requirements. He became so engrossed in the process that he would impersonate one of them while brainstorming and see the application or UI from their perspective. He quickly discovered that by looking at the world through the eyes of his target audience, he was able to create UIs that offer far greater UX.

As Cooper moved from developing software programs himself and went to consult businesses who were doing so, he wanted the clients to see the world from the perspective of target users. This need to help his clients see led to the formalization of User Persona.

Why User Persona is Important for Creating Exceptional User Experience

When it comes to developing and designing applications, much has changed over the past decade. With more powerful, sophisticated and flexible languages, designers and developers enjoy the freedom to create smarter and more intuitive applications today.

However, one thing remained the same.

 

Deep Understanding of User Still Remains Fundamental for Creating Outstanding Software Applications.

 

Here lies the power of Personas.

Used properly, Personas have the power to direct the entire designing and developing process of any product, be it a coffee mug or a software.

How?

The first step towards using Personas requires you to accept wholeheartedly that the Persona is a living breathing person. S/he is THE person for whom you are building the application.

The second, and perhaps more crucial is to anticipate the Persona’s behavior in respect of scenarios. In real life, everything we do is driven by the situation we are in; and it is the same with Personas as well.

So, this is how Personas help you in building effective UI and in turn create awesome UX.

Define End Goals: Every user who is going to use your application will do so to fulfill a certain goal. And defining this goal correctly is the founding stone on which you would build the program. Personas help you recognize this goal. For example, when I’m using a mug to drink my Coffee from, my goal is to take a sip of Coffee without spilling it on my shirt (which, by the way, I’m known for). So, while designing the mug, the designer must make it easier to hold (while filled with hot liquid, of course).

Anticipate Behaviour According to Scenarios: Behaviour changes according to situations and Personas are no different! By putting the Persona is an anticipated situation, you can understand how exactly you can enhance the user experience. To get back to the same example, WHEN I’m drinking my coffee has EVERYTHING to do with my cup preferences. I’m drinking my Coffee in the morning, when I’m usually hurrying through mundane but important still chores of the day. And thus, I want a Mug that can hold enough coffee and still have some room left, so as to accommodate my careless movements. I also want to ensure that the mug won’t break if I put it in the sink in a hurried manner. And thus, I buy big sturdy Coffee mugs (which I generally use in the Morning) and fancy delicate Tea cups (which I bring out now and then for a relaxed evening cuppa).  To design the perfect Coffee mug for me, the designer has to understand when I drink my Coffee and what’s the situation I’m in while I’m drinking it.

While the example was a simple coffee mug, the process is not much different in case of applications.

Personas make you see through your users’ eyes and help you build a product that solves the problem for them (and not just add features).

How User Personas are Created

Well, Personas are definitely not a product of imagination. Here are some steps that UI/UX experts use to build Personas:

  1. Interview a significant number of people from the target audience group.
  2. Find patterns in the responses and create groups with people who gave similar responses.
  3. Build a representative model of the groups, based on response pattern.
  4. Draw from the life, details, and goals of the attendees and create a Persona for each group.

Why Personas Work?

You may ask here, why Personas work. And it is an interesting question too!

The answer lies in the realms of human psychology. Here are some of the reasons why Personas work like magic for creating user-centric UI and UX.

Story Telling:  Human ability and inclination towards creating, sharing and hearing stories make it easier to understand the pain-points of a Persona.

Better Understanding of Tangible Example: Human mind better understand things that are tangible; that is why it becomes easier to relate to a Persona than with the abstract idea of a target group.

Empathy: Human beings can understand and relate to other human beings, and thus, can share in their pain and triumph. Personas give a face to the idea of a target group and thus help designer and developers empathize with them.

Last Words

The truth is, designers and developers don’t always know what is best for a product.

Users do!

And that is why, looking at the product from the users’ point of view is crucial for success. And, Personas help you do just that.

So, the next time you are thinking about building a product, build the User Persona first and then ask him/her, what is the goal s/he wants to fulfill with the product and in which situation s/he will be using it.

Once you have concrete answers to these questions, then only you’ll be able to build an effective UI and create an awesome UX.

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