A study conducted by some Psychologists showed that people respond more to individuals rather than groups. An example of this is that a single victim receives more empathy than a group of victims.
This is known as the person’s positivity bias.

That is why designers create personas. To make the broad, vague category of users more real and personalized.

Personas have been used for a long time in design.

Seventeen created a persona named Teena, based on a survey of teenage girls and their mothers in 1940. They described her as TEENA, THE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL, who faces all the problems that a teenage girl does.

Seventeen recognized teenage girls as a separate demographic that they wanted to target. Their magazine was entirely built around TEENA, THE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL, and answered her questions.

So, why is Teena important to us or any designer?
The answer is Teena’s capability of representing her users.

That’s the objective of a persona. Teena appeared so real in the magazine that printed her, that Seventeen’s user base immediately responded to her.


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Personas are imaginary characters that resemble your user base’s desires, attributes, and behaviors. These characters specify a detailed description of your users. Creating personas is the second step in UX design.

Another company that used personas to relate to the target audience is Apple.
The Apple iPad 2 TV Ad shows the user using it to go through stock prices and brain scans, apart from more generalized use like going through family photos or learning guitar. This clearly shows that Apple was targeting users that were functional in corporate offices, and believed in work-life balance.

Although, persona creation is not limited to big companies. Every time you build a persona that clearly defines user desires, attributes, and behaviors your chances of developing a product with a consistent user interface rise.

Not creating personas lead to an unfocused design team building a product that tries to please everyone on the planet.


A little girl is eating ice-cream


Every member of your team will have a different description of what the user looks like. When you build a product that user description gets stretched into various directions. Some might consider the user experienced, while others might call them novice. 

In real life, personas aren’t elastic. They might find hard coping with our schizophrenic interface. 

Personas transform the vague user into concrete people.

Focused Design Team Personas give focus to the design team. Everyone on the team knows who they will design and develop for.

Consistent User Interface Personas help the team design a consistent user interface. Even if a user falls out of your target audience, they’ll be happy to notice a consistent user interface.

Prioritization of Features Personas helps in the prioritization of features. When a persona is detail-oriented, you know that they will be happy to buy your product only if they notice a particular feature.

Decision Making Clearly defined attributes lead to decision making that’ll favor those attributes.

User Acronyms Persona names become a substitute for the desires, attributes, and behaviors attached to them. For example, saying “John wouldn’t need that feature” mean that users with the persona like desires, attributes, and behaviors wouldn’t need the feature in the discussion.



Personas can be created in 2 ways:

Based on Assumptions (Assumption Personas)

Based on Data (Data-driven Personas)

The first type of persona is created based on a primary understanding of the user base, with little or no data for support. While in the case of data-driven personas every statement describing the persona is backed by data.



Based on the data gathered and the experience map you created during Data Analysis, you can narrow down user attributes.

  • Bring all the sticky notes from the experience map, that contain user attributes, together.
  • Cluster similar attributes in a single group.
  • Name each group using a role.
  • Make each role personal.
  • Give name and age to the persona with a tagline. Example Ali The Productivity Doctor.

Answer the questions like:

  • What do they do in real life?
  • Are they comfortable with technology? Rate their comfort level.
  • How experienced are they in your field?
  • Do they use your product as a choice or is it part of their work?
  • Do they use it alone or in a team?
  • What is the frequency of use?
  • What are their goals with your product – Speed, Efficiency, Accuracy, Status Quo?
  • What are their concerns about the product?

Jot down design implications for each attribute. For example, in the case of Ali The Productivity Doctor the features may concentrate on delivering more in less time.

Add a few user quotes. For example, “I love organizing things” says Ali The Productivity Doctor. You can refer to the direct quotes on your experience map.


  • Use the data you already have.
  • Make assumptions wherever needed.
  • Note down which persona attributes are based on assumptions.
  • Tested your assumptions during usability testing to know whether your personas need to be tweaked.
  • This way you’ll have a working model of the personas and you can make small corrections along the way as you learn more about user needs.

Once all of the above activities are conducted for all the roles, you might feel the need to merge 2 or more roles. Try to narrow down the number of roles to 2. If you have a large product with a diverse user base you might have more users. In that case, define the top 1 or 2 roles per feature. Make sure that the difference between these 2 roles is well defined.


Assumption based personas do the job for shorter development needs. But, data-driven personas are more concrete and believable.

Data-driven means that every statement made about the persona description is backed by data points. 

This data can be gathered through:

  • Field visits – Data gathered while observing users perform the activity you care about.
  • Market research – Understand the target customer of your competitors.
  • Segmentation studies – Understand the groups that marketing teams target, and how those groups correspond to your personas.
  • Metrics and log files – Numeric data collected through quantitative data sources.
  • Help desk calls – Ask the help desk team to list the top 10 user issues.
  • Sales team data – Study the audience that most responds to the product, their concerns and the options they choose.

Work out which pieces of data are useful.


  • Make sure the entire team is engaged in the persona creation activity for varied perspectives.
  • Talk to people that represent your target audience.
  • Refer to the ideal buyer summary of sales teams. Research as deeply as possible.
  • The more time you spend on research, the more data you achieve. The more data you achieve the more accurate your personas are. Continuously update the research to keep your product updated.


Maintaining a persona data file will help you refer to it to find the corresponding data. The file can be divided into the following sections:

  • Attributes
  • Goals
  • Scenarios of use
  • Background information


Human beings are wired to empathize. And personas make the broad and vague term “user” more identifiable.

Personas put the user in the user-centric design.

You can also read more blog post on design thinking. 


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