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What is a persona

Persona is a design tool that defines a user group with relevant characteristics. It is a specific characterisation of the user group, often accompanied with user's name and image. Persona is not a stereotype of the typical user, rather an indicative representation of members in a user profile. Often referred to as archetypes of the users in the group, personas are derived from the target user profiles for the product.


Why Personas

Personas are a key step in the product engineering process, helping the team to understand the users and their needs. Personas enable the team to validate the product's proposed features early on in the product development. They facilitate communication among the clients, marketing, product design and development teams. This powerful design tool helps the key stakeholders and product teams to connect and relate easily with users.
Typically for any product, there could be huge numbers, types and complexities of people in the userbase. Persona is a great tool for the teams, saving them the effort, time and cost in reaching out to all the people in the user groups. Besides being a great design tool, personas are also used to create usage scenarios and task flows in the product engineering process.

Where are personas relevant

The personas or personae as some people refer to, are used extensively in usability engineering and product development fields. Personas are also used in marketing, consumer behaviour and cognitive psychology, though with a different flavour. While product engineering focuses on the task and behaviour profiles in personas, marketing focuses on the demographics, interests and psychographics. Personas are used more in the external and customer-focusing products, and rarely used with products internal to the organisations such as Intranets.

When are personas used

Personas are used typically in the early stages of the product development. Teams find them valuable during the initial phases to help understand about the users and conceptualise the problem space. This understanding in turn helps the teams to create solutions that address the user needs. Personas are also used in the Design phase to help validate the design decisions and ascertain the feasibility of proposed solution. During the solution implementation stage too, when new features need to be validated for their feasibility, fitment and correctness, personas come in handy.

How are personas created and managed

  • Identify the key user profiles
  • Gather information about users from other primary and secondary sources
  • Use the profiles and other sources to create personas
  • Conduct user studies and usability tests to interact directly with users
  • Validate personas from the data gathered from user studies and tests
  • Refine the personas over the life cycle of the product