How to Create a Usability Persona

May 25, 2012 by

UX Design Personas, Interface Design Persona ProcessAs a member of the UX design team you need to have a strong understanding of your customers/users and their specific goals and incentives. With this understanding of your user you can craft a usability persona to dig into to the what, why, and how.

What is a usability persona?

A persona is a detailed description of the personal traits of 2-3 typical, mainstream users. To build on this let’s look at the wonderful definition of persona provided by UX Mag.

A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a ‘type’ regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics.”

How is a User Persona Created?

Before you can create a usability persona you need to conduct one-on-one interviews with a wide demographic of your targeted audience. If you have multiple target audiences, as many applications do, then you’ll need conduct a separate series of interviews for each. These interviews should be run by a usability researcher.

Using the research gathered during the usability one-on-one interviews you can create 1-3 descriptions of the people who are using your product. That’s a persona!

The only way to get a full understanding of your real usability persona is to interview your real customers. I promise that you’ll be surprised with the results you find.

Focus on the Mainstream

It’s very important to create persona’s that mirror the personalities of your main stream users, not your expert users.

Quite often you may think that your expert users are your mainstream users, but they actually aren’t. They’re just the loudest customers that you often get the most feedback from. The mainstream users are the one’s who get in, get it done, and get out. They don’t focus on customizations and advanced features, they want to get their tasks done in the fastest, easiest way possible so that they can get on with their busy lives.

What does a persona look like?

User.com provides a few great examples of what good personas look like.

User: Fred Fish, Director of Food Services

Background: Fred is Director of Food Services for Boise Controls, a mid-sized manufacturer of electronic devices used in home security systems. He uses a computer, but he’s a chef by trade and not so computer-savvy. A computer is just another tool for getting his administrative tasks done.

Key goals: As a manager, Fred doesn’t get his hands (literally) dirty the way he used to. He stops in at all the Boise Controls sites and sticks his fingers into things once in awhile to stay in touch with cooks and cooking.

Usage scenario: At the start of every quarter, he meets with the head chefs and plans out the next quarter’s menus. That’s one of his favorite things because each chef gets to demonstrate a new meal. They spend time in the kitchen exploring each new dish.

For more, check out the full usability persona sample from User.com

More Great Resources on Creating a Usability Persona

  1. USA TodayWhat’s your customer’s persona?
  2. UX For The MassesGetting the most out of personas
  3. Cooper.comPutting Personas Under the Microscope
  4. Cooper.comThe Origin of Personas
  5. Cooper.comGetting from Research to Personas: Harnessing the Power of Data
  6. UIEPersonas and Goal-Directed Design: An Interview with Kim Goodwin
  7. JohnnyHolland.orgWhy Personas are Critical for Content Strategy
  8. UsabillaThese Smurfalicious personas will engage your users
  9. Follow The UX LeaderPersonas: A Critical Investment For Content Strategy
  10. Web Design from ScratchUsing Personas & Scenarios in web design
  11. UX MovementThe Importance of Tying Personas to Wireframes
  • http://twitter.com/kieranw80 Kieran Weston

    The link under Whats Next is broken, can you fix? Thanks

    • http://www.kevinleary.net/ Kevin Leary

      Thanks Kieran!

      I was a little bit overambitious and posted that “What’s Next” section pre-maturely.

  • suheeb

    I loved the articles so far. Great job! But just one thing – I think the sample persona background information is misaligned with his roles and the company her works.