To understand the benefits of user personas, we first need to know what a persona is. A user persona is a fictional person or character created (typically by a designer) based on the goals of a prospective user. Interviews with current users, customers and stakeholders can help inform user persona creation.
Personas are typically reinforced by data and analytics captured from the stakeholder's current website. If there is no current site, they are based off market research.
Personas can include a wide range of attributes – from traits, characteristics, occupation and financial status to age, back story, and pain points. Personas should feature elements that will help your team create an appropriate experience for targeted users.
What does one gain from creating personas? If they are just a set of fictional assumptions, how do they help the people creating the site?
Personas give the creative team upfront knowledge about the users for which they are designing.
When a designer creates a persona, they can gain empathy and a point of view similar to an end user. It is through this perspective that the designer makes decisions, built on the persona's goals, wants and needs. Personas reinforce a user-centered design approach to help minimize personal design styles and opinions.
Additionally, when applying personas, you have something to refer back to in order to make educated decisions, grounded in the already-defined attributes. Personas give the designer a structure to design within and keep them from going too far off course.
Personas are powerful because they leverage natural human abilities, such as:
- Empathy – the ability to relate and share the feelings of another
- Narrative practice – the ability to share stories
- Experience-taking – the ability to alter your thoughts to that of a character in a story
User personas, when implemented correctly, are living, breathing characters and that are referenced often. They can be used across all parts of the marketing process, helping to inform and implement strategies. The end result is a well-informed team with the ability to create buyer's journeys tailored to specific, target user audiences.