Understanding your customers with Design Personas


4 min read

Posted by Claire Mulholland on June 11, 2020

Understanding your customers with Design Personas

This blog article will focus on the Design Persona, which is typically created to represent how, why and when users interact with a product or service. Design Personas are created as a result of UX Design teams engaging with a product’s representative users. This involves user research and interactions with real users. The Design Persona tends to be focused on user goals, needs and frustrations when interacting with the product or service. UX Design teams use Design Personas to help ensure that the end user is put in the centre of the design process leading to better design decisions when defining the product or service feature set. Design Personas also provide an efficient communication tool for business stakeholders to generate user empathy and challenge business assumptions around what represents value. Ultimately Design Personas deliver business value by keeping the team and budgets focused on solving the right problems or opportunities for end users. After all, why would you make a considerable investment in your digital strategy based on unverifiable assumptions?

What is a Design Persona?

A Design Persona is a user model, a composite of sorts, representing key user archetype of a design product. It is the synthesis of real users’ various types of behaviours, attitudes, contexts, goals, motivations and capabilities. A Design Persona provides our teams and clients with a reliable “picture” of the key audience segments of the users of the product we are building for.

How do we create Design Personas?

When starting on a new project, we start by creating persona hypotheses (or proto personas) that serve us as a starting point in determining which profile of users to include in the UX design process. We base our hypothesis on information collected from stakeholders, research literature, and personal assumptions.

In order to verify our persona hypotheses, we conduct more research to collect data that will support the creation of the Design Persona. This data can come from interviews with users and stakeholders, market research data such as surveys or focus groups, to data gathered from literature reviews and previous studies. As the research phase unfolds, we gather more data, get to observe different patterns and we progressively gain more and more insights into users' contexts, goals, capabilities, etc... This allows us to develop and refine our Design Personas.

Like a human being, a persona is complex. As a result, to build a successful persona, you will need to have a great understanding of the different layers that compose your users. These are composed of four key elements:

  1. Contextual information
  2. Goals
  3. Frustrations
  4. Needs

1. Contextual information

Design Personas can have different age groups, backgrounds and different attitudes and knowledge towards a product as well as different capabilities regarding new technologies. When developing a persona, it is important to answer personal, professional, technical questions as it will give more credibility to your persona and increase your sympathy for it.

2. Goals

Each Design Persona has different goals when using a product (e.g. look for information, buy a product). We tend to group these goals in cluster and associate them with one Design Persona instead of creating several Design Personas with a unique goal. This helps us to increase our focus on users and to better understand the scope of the product and the diversity of user journeys that can be associated with one type of user.

3. Frustrations/Pain points

To identify frustrations/pain points, we pinpoint elements that are causing friction in the user journey (e.g. product not responsive, difficulty to find information, absence of images, content not up to date).

4. Needs

We have two ways of identifying needs:

  • We can take the pain points and change them into needs (e.g. The frustration: "website not responsive" becomes the need "Be able to see content on all devices, mobile and tablet included")
  • We can also list all the needs identified for specific user journeys during our research phase

The creation of Design Personas is an iterative process that keeps evolving with UX research but also with time.

Why do we use Design Personas?

Design Personas are a powerful communication tool within our design teams and with our clients. They are key to define the product’s feature set but also during the testing phase in order to prioritise the recruitment of participants in UX activities (e.g. usability testing, tree testing). By summarising the user research in one persona we can get a snapshot of critical insights linked to a group of users, this serves us to keep our efforts focused and to empathise with real users of the product during the whole design process.

Are you looking to create Design Personas?

If you're looking to create Design Personas to help maximise your budget to focus on the right types of problems or opportunities for your users, you will need to engage with a UX Designer.

At Arekibo we work with our clients to build personas to benefit our projects.

You may also be interesting in talking to your marketing team about buyer/marketing personas to increase brand engagement.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about our UX expertise in practice, or you would like to add our UX services to strengthen your digital strategy.

About the Author

Claire Mulholland
Claire Mulholland

Claire is a UX/UI designer who joined the team in 2020.