Design and Build for the User: How to Create a User Persona

The DeLorean car, “New” Coke, Friendster and Google Glass…all products that failed spectacularly despite millions poured into their development. They failed because, in the end, they designed a product their user didn’t feel they needed.

Think of your next website, mobile app or custom application project as a digital product – as every product is designed to solve a problem and provide a solution for your final user. Your project should start from there: identifying and approaching the project from the point of view of your user. To do that, you will need to create what’s called User Personas.

Entire articles could be written on how to first identify your users through website traffic reports, CRM data, engagement analytics, sales reports, surveys and so on. For this article, let’s assume you’ve done the raw research. The next step is to turn all that raw information into a polished User Persona that you and your team can point to throughout the project’s design and development to ensure that what you’re creating is bringing value and solving a problem for that user.

So, let’s talk about what a User Persona looks like. Here are the key elements:

Name
Giving them a name gives them life. Calling them Susan will help you identify with them far better than calling them “System Administrator” (which should go into attributes, instead).

Photo
It’s always best to put a face to a name. Based on their identified attributes, grab a photo in Google image that best fits the role.

Attributes
Here we want to give the user a category (Customer, System Administrator, etc.), title, age and sex. Indicate their technology proficiency and device preference. Lastly, provide a percentage for this user in relation to your overall user base (are they 70% of your overall? 10%?). This will help prioritize if you have several user personas identified.

Character Traits
What is this user like? Are they an introvert, extrovert? Are they curious about new things, or crave status quo? Is there go-to reaction, one of excitement or apprehension?

Background
Where did this user come from in terms of their education, their likely prior employment and experiences that might affect how they will react to and buy into your product?

Goals and Motivations
What are they looking to achieve for both themselves, and their business? For example, they may come to your site to acquire certification in order to advance their career and make their job easier and less chaotic.

Pain Points
What are the obstacles in their way to reaching their goals and objectives? Avoid making the pain points feature-related. Those specifics will come later. For now you want to identify the broad paint points they are experiencing, such as that they don’t have enough time or budget, or perhaps profitability or wasted resources are major issues.

Opportunities
Write a short statement of how the user will benefit from your product, and how that user will benefit your organization. Simply a sentence or two.

A Quote
If you were to interview this user and ask for a quick quote…what would it be? For example, they might say, “I need training but the choices are overwhelming and I don’t know where to start. Where do I begin?”. It sounds silly, but this will help when you’re in the design phase. You can quickly scan your user personas and their quick-read quote will keep you on track.

That’s it! By the time you’re done creating their persona, you now know exactly who this user is. You know what drives them, what they’re facing and why, and ultimately…you now have a firm foundation as to how you can solve their problem.

That’s what will make all the difference in making your digital product a success.