What is a Persona?

Personas are fictional characters created by professionals to represent different users for products, services, websites, or brands. A personas’ purpose is to help professionals comprehend the user’s needs, behaviors, experiences, and goals. They should be based on quantitative and qualitative research as they are only as good as the research behind them.

Personas help professionals grow a deeper understanding of the target audience and help designers empathize with end users. Personas offer guidance in building and structuring information architecture, designing a website, and writing web content relevant to its audiences. They can also assist in allowing leaders to evaluate new site features.

Personas shouldn’t be a detailed specific person, but instead, a composite sketch represents a general group of people. The marketing persona should also cover a key segment of your audience, but not the whole thing. Generating personas follows these steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement.

To create accurate personas, you should make sure to conduct user research finding out who your users are, why they are using that particular system, and their assumptions and expectations. Next, condense the research found and then brainstorm how to organize and classify these elements representing the target users.

After, separate the personas into categories. Ideally, there should be 3-5 personas. Lastly, develop as realistic persona backgrounds, motivations, and expectations as possible about them.

While personas can be incredibly useful when used correctly, they are often misused and misunderstood, leading to failure. Failure can result from the persona being created fundamentally wrong based on inaccurate or inadequate amounts of data. It could be due to the fact data was created but never actually used. If there isn’t buy-in from leadership, it can be hard even to get started. Other issues result from professionals not understanding what personas are or why they’re useful.

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