User Research, UX Consultant Knowledge Base

How do you make a Persona Character?

fRebecca Scott

Rebecca Scott, UX Consultant, UX Connections

In this article we explain the best process for creating user personas

Persona creation is a core aspect of our UX Research service offering. Personas are a great communication tool for bringing user behaviours to life.  They are critical in affording stakeholders the opportunity to develop empathy with their users.

We create a rich picture of a product or digital experiences’ users, focused around their needs when interacting. This process facilitates the creation of ‘design opportunities’ – practical ways we can improve the usability and information architecture of the user experience.

But the questions we often get asked are – how to make a persona and what exactly are they (and aren’t they)? In this article, we will explain those questions. 

In a nutshell, we synthesize user research to group behaviours into 4-6 groupings which represent the digital needs of the customer types. The core goals of each group are defined and then we incorporate character detail to bring them to life.

In a bit more detail, we tend to follow these 5 steps:

1. Collect Real User Data

It is important that customer and user personas are grounded in real data. This way understanding of user behaviours won’t be hypothetical or based on assumptions, but will be based on science. 

We usually triangulate qualitative and quantitative research methodologies in order to substantiate our findings. Examples of some quantitative approaches include surveys and usability metrics. In terms of qualitative approaches we often conduct semi-structured interviews and diary studies. 

We always aim to conduct interviews and usability testing in-person, in a users’ natural context. This tends to be where the user feels most comfortable and facilitates naturalistic results.

2. Analyse and Code the Data

Once we have collected our data we then begin the process of analysis. During this stage we identify themes and patterns in the data to identify core trends. We do this by coding the data i.e. systematising it through adding codes for key ideas/observations/themes. 

This analysis process often involves sifting through vast amounts of data and can be quite lengthy. But it is always interesting making sense of the information that’s been collected.

3. Create Behavioural Groupings

Once behavioural trends in the data have been identified, we aggregate these trends to create behavioural groupings. It is often the case at this stage that behavioural patterns cluster naturally into personas. This is often based around a core goal for each grouping. 

It is important to note that multiple behavioural trends associated with one user may end up in different groupings. The clustering aggregates associated behaviours for a particular context as opposed to being representative of one individual. The idea is that one person may fit into different persona mindsets when in different contexts.

See the diagram below for more information. 

persona process

4. Create Persona Posters

At this stage we name and embellish the behavioural groupings. We give the groupings catchy names that will stick in the client teams minds; we add details such as quotes to bring them to life and we design beautiful posters that convey the information clearly. 

Core information in these personas posters includes: user needs, goals, pain points, attitudes, digital behaviours and quotations.

We see these persona posters as important deliverables for our clients. There have been instances where our personas have ended up stuck up on client office walls and regularly referred back to when making designs. It is important to have the user of a product or service in mind for any business or organisation.

5. Identify Persona Design Opportunities

Personas are incredibly useful tools in aiding design thinking. They enable designers and stakeholders alike to consider opportunities for optimising a product or service. Identifying design improvements directly after persona creation ensures that the user research leads to actionable insights. 

At UX Connections we aim to create best-in-class user experiences, so when considering design opportunities we like to think in terms of ‘what would be the ideal scenario’ as a starting point and then we consider the constraints later down the line.

To finish off here are a few things that personas are NOT:

  • They are not real people or representative of demographic segments, they are based on behaviours and behavioural groupings. 
  • They are not stereotypes or fictional characters, they are grounded in real data. 
  • They are not representative of a single type of person, they can be thought of as mental models adopted in a particular context.

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