A persona is used commonly in marketing and UX/UI (web design) to understand more about who is expected to be the best type of user or customer. They are comprised of a profile outlining details of that person’s life which affects their buying decisions, pain points and goals. A persona is actually a made up character who you can use as an example whenever designing a feature or ad – will this appeal to Jan Doe?
When you are first creating a persona, you can draw some information from what you already have. Sometimes the business is getting started but has some sales volume to look at for clues about who is most interested. If the business or project is a bit less established, you can compare it to the competition to understand who their users are. Ultimately, there are a lot of assumptions made in a persona, which will need to be refined.
Proto-persona vs. Persona
When you are getting started creating an early persona for a project, more assumptions are being made and it can be referred to as a “Proto-Persona”. It’s a prediction more than anything, but a starting point. If you remember in science class, creating a hypothesis of how a lab experiment will turn out, and then doing the experiment to test your theory, afterwards you would wind up with a more accurate conclusion of how true it was.
Testing your persona accuracy
There are many ways to perform user tests to identify how on-target your materials are for providing something better than your competition for the right types of users. The best way is to hire a UX/UI designer to beta-test a prototype of the product in person with 5 people matching your personas to get their feedback about difficult areas or to validate demand. It saves massive amounts of money, effort and resources compared to developing something completely and then finding it needs to be redesigned. Simple ways without in-person beta testing can also include running email surveys or website polls on already-developed products to find ways to improve them, or to closely analyse ad data, some SEO (website search bar terms), and social media interactions.
Adjusting your persona
It’s amazing how often our audience and their goals are surprisingly different than what was anticipated. It can turn out that under-performing ads were targeting the wrong people, or addressing challenges they have never worried about. Sometimes user tests can reveal that people are using your product in a way you never thought of. Patterns emerge and your idea that “anyone can use this product” begins to solidify into more of a niche audience who will consistently turn out to be your best customers once they discover you.
Key decisions based on your persona
Have you ever bought a gift for someone, who really turned out not to like that gift? Whether we realize it or not, we all have biases that are not obvious to ourselves, and we tend to create products that meet our own preferences. A persona can help you check back in more often with who your project is for. For example, are they more engaged by upcoming trends and high-fashion graphic design, or are they more likely retirement age and require something they can see without their reading glasses? Do likes equate to dollars? Can they recognize something is clickable, and accurately predict what it might lead to? How many clicks before they find what they were looking for? Which product will they choose? Which apps and websites do they use the most? How much learning is necessary to find their way around your materials? Which languages do they speak? What’s their budget? What makes them excited? What holds them back? How would they react to this change?