A persona is a representation of a type of customer. Personas answer the question, “Who are we designing for?” and they help to align strategy and goals to specific user groups.
So how do you conduct a persona analysis? This short animated video will give you some helpful pointers.
You can begin by compiling everything you know about your customers and grouping your findings in a spreadsheet. You could use headings relevant to your areas of study, such as industry, device, time, and goals. Or you could create affinity diagrams by organizing your findings on post-it notes. You might start to see patterns—the industries in which customers work, and what devices they use, at what time of day, and where. From here, you can form questions about your customers and work out what they have in common and also how they differ.
Then find the people who form these clusters—either in your existing customer database or by recruiting them— and talk to them. It’s a win-win. You get to learn from customers and they get access to the folks who create the software they rely on. Visiting a customer is ideal. But if you can’t visit in person, a video-chat is your next best option. A persona has a personality—the more you observe and capture during these interviews, the more realistic that personality will be.
You can then tag and analyze your findings. Return to your spreadsheet or affinity diagram and add more data points—office environment, software in use, collaboration habits and so on. Look for the predominant clusters and shared attributes.
You might find that two of your personas share many characteristics. You can combine these personas. Or if there is enough distinction to warrant it, divide the persona into two. Creating personas is an iterative process. What seems right at first glance may not hold up to close scrutiny.
Now it’s time to come up with names and representations for these personas. Your representation might be a photo, an illustration or an icon. The important part is that these personas be distinct and memorable. You want your colleagues, at the mention of the Alice persona, to picture Alice and recall what she represents.
Once you’ve created your personas, you can use them to design for customers with accuracy and confidence. For example, we can say, “This is a feature that Alice would use, but one that Jim might not discover in his typical use of our app.”
Finally, share your personas with as many colleagues as possible. Create posters of your personas and hang them throughout your office. Your goal is to create a shared understanding of just who you work for and how everyone can better serve them.
Personas can give you real insights into your customers, which will your result in you designing a much better product or service. Just remember that personas change over time—create them, learn from them, share them, and then don’t forgot to revisit them and begin the process anew!