Personas: A determining factor for optimal user experience

29 March 2018
Personas
What makes a technological product commercially successful? It’s a vast and complex topic, isn’t it? In this article, we offer several possible responses.

Personas: WHY MAKE THEM?

In today’s digital world, the consumer has access to a multitude of products that they can compare, try, adopt and reject. What then makes the difference?

It is no longer solely the product’s technicalities, but rather the user experience. The main challenge is to make the product useful and usable, that it responds to the consumer’s needs, that it is adapted to their skills and that it is perceived as easy to use.

But how does one design a good user experience? It is by taking the user into account when the product or service is being designed, thus maximising its adaptation to the user. Consequently, we are talking about user-centred design.

Doing user-centred design, or having the users involved as early as possible in the design process, demands investment. In order to ensure that the user is taken into account even without having access to the target population, a number of designers use personas.

We will now present this method to you and, more specifically, the keys to implementing it in a pertinent and efficient fashion!

WHAT IS a PERSONA?

A persona is a fictitious person which has all of the particularities of a target user.

This persona is described according to many aspects: its needs, objectives, tasks and personal characteristics. It even has a name and a face.

Our persona is a potential user of our service, a subject of the product design.

We are thus going to use our persona to act out a product use scenario (website, mobile application, business line, etc.). This allows us to:

  • from a design perspective, to better grasp, understand and specify the responses to our users’ needs,
  • from a collaborative perspective, to have a known and shared vision on the part of the entire design team,
  • from a decision-making perspective, to explain the design choices to top management.

The personas support us during all project stages and all throughout the project’s life cycle. They continue to be enriched as much as the knowledge of the users is refined and the challenges of the business line evolve: the personas are alive!

Often when reading about the method, the designers think or imagine that it is possible to put themselves in the user’s shoes when constructing their profile by using imaginary data. Yet neither an average user nor an average interface exists which can satisfy all users.

The method relies on a deep analysis of objectives, motivations and characteristics of the population targeted by the product or service. It is thanks to this analysis that it will be possible to create personas. Thus, our personas are reliable since they rely on concrete data.

HOW TO BUILD PERSONAS

What concrete data can one use to build personas?

  1. Biographical data based on the user type: age, gender, socio-professional category, demographic characteristics, etc.
  2. Data on the digital relationship: digital-friendly or not and type of equipment (tablets, PC, mobiles)
  3. Data on needs and motivations related to the product
  4. Behavioural data: choice criteria, relation to use, context of use

In order to humanise the data, it only remains to combine them in a narrative and representative form while adding fictional details (a name and a photo for instance).

Furthermore, the designers will be able to resort to this more easily by creating a personified reference mental image. The persona becomes “recognisable”.

Generally, 3-4 personas are enough to cover the perimeter of a project.

NB: The characteristics of the personas vary according to the targeted service. As a result, the variables to cover are not exhaustive.

personas

WHAT PURPOSE DO THEY SERVE, AND HOW DOES ONE USE THEM? 

As mentioned in the introduction, part of what makes an application successful is its user experience.

Therefore, the personas make it possible to design an interface which responds to specific and identified needs. If the designed interface responds to the needs of the persona (created from real data), then you’ve got a winner!

The service will attain user commitment, loyalty and satisfaction, this final point being one of the key factors to the success of a digital product.

Personas chart


Furthermore, by knowing their history through their file, the personas become the design companions of the project team, favouring empathy and the emergence of more innovative and efficient solutions. It is therefore easier to support the design strategy.

Personas are keystones of AGILE devices. They are often displayed on Scrum boards.

Conclusion

The personas method is therefore a powerful method which allows a project team to have a clear vision of the interface’s use by the users.

The focus is not only on the features’ technical qualities, but also on their capacity to be useful and used by target users.

In conclusion, a good persona is a humanised persona. Its foundations are made of concrete data, illustrated by a story which describes its current or future use of the application and attracts the empathy of the designers.

Personas are a key deliverable during the entire design phase of the user experience.

They are usually made by a UX researcher, UX designer, or ergonomist.

 

Persona examples created as part of a new online airline ticket reservation service.

Persona Linda Persona John Persona Padma Persona Mike

 

 

Clémence

 

About the author:

Clémence has a degree in occupational psychology and ergonomics. She is specialised in human-machine interfaces and today works on website and mobile application design and makeovers. Throughout these experiences, over the year she has developed, in addition to functional skills and techniques necessary in the field of ergonomics, professional soft skills essential to effective and efficient customer relations for the best possible outcomes for projects.
 

 

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