On a typical project, lots of things happen before a user experience designer is brought in: idea, pitch, fundraising, traction, programming, etc.

You need a central clarifying goal or mission for the website. Without it, different business areas end up in competition for control and visibility. Things get put together based on what each department wants as opposed to what the consumer needs.

The end result is invariably a bad experience with confusing interfaces and websites and disappointed staff members.

We have found that personas are the best to avoid the directionless, design by committee project disasters.

Personas are a tool for both crafting and expressing business clarity and focus, and bring project members to a common understanding of the end user. Utilizing personas allows you to reframe internal debates and force project stakeholders into the user’s shoes, enabling your project to result in a product/service that is user-centric.

Personas combine the attitudes, motives, and buying behaviors of your customers, incorporating them into unique profiles, each representing a single consumer group. Through this greater understanding of the customer’s needs, desires and wishes, you better able to design customer experiences, services, and products.

But what should a persona include to be successful?

Eight Components of a buyer or user persona

#1. Full Name or Job Title

Choose your Personas’ names wisely. If you give Personas human names, make sure those viewing the documents don’t make generalizations based on names alone. A Persona named “Emily” shouldn’t mean all users in that category are female.

Using a title instead allows you to easily reference a group of users during discussions. If you do choose to use titles, make sure they are specific. “The Aspiring Entrepreneur” is too general. Is she a student? An individual with a passion project? Before settling on a title, closely consider the message it sends audiences and the information it conveys.

#2. Picture

Name’s only one side of the story, without a face to accompany it your team is still going to be looking at a… well, a cluster of information.

Give your persona a face that reflects the descriptions used throughout the template. If possible, use a photo of a real consumer, not a cheesy, easily identifiable stock image.

Show the individual in a space that gives insight into where your product fits into his/her life. A UX/UI designer might be in a studio, a student in a classroom, a part-time dad at his home office.

#3. Demographics

Start to add texture to the user through the use of demographics and background information. Information such as educational history, lifestyle, interests, and behavior practices can help you envision your consumer group and let you adjust your efforts to cater to that group. Specify what your persona does for a living, what are his or her hobbies, education, interests, income, and favorite brands. This will help you determine what products and services are within the reach of your persona.

A quick way to find statistics on consumer demographics is by using Google Analytics. Collect data on the origin, age, and marital status of those currently visiting your site.

#4. Personality Traits

Who is your user? Indicate her KEY personality traits and help round out her overall image. There are several straightforward ways to build out personality types for your personas.

According to the Myers Briggs, there are 16 potential user personality types. We’re probably all familiar with the basics of the test and are familiar with differentiators such as: Are they more of an introvert or an extrovert? Do they take time to consider situations or act quickly based on instinct?

Alternatively, you could employ traditional user archetypes. Archetypes are widely understood identities that characterize an individual’s personality, motivations, and goals. Check out these 12 common archetypes to help form your definition of those using your product. Be careful not to undermine Personas by using jargon like “visionary” or “radical” without going into detail about what exactly these words imply. Why are these individuals considered visionaries, and how do they want to use your product?

Finally describe the Persona in a few words based on their personality, work ethic, motivations, and priorities. Are they an energetic, outgoing self-starter? Or a driven but disorganized introvert?

Choose adjectives that help define how this Persona’s personality differs from other users or potential consumers.

#5. Goals & Unmet Needs

Most Persona goals should be end goals, goals about what the Persona ultimately achieves in using your product or service. This could be something tangible: a beautiful advertisement, a sleek web page. An end goal could also be a more intangible achievement by using a product: increased productivity, greater security.

Types of goals to avoid:

1. Tasks. Tasks are items needed to complete in order to accomplish goals.

2. Life goals. Objectives such as “Retire by age 45,” or “Have a happy marriage” may be too broad and or irrelevant if you were designing a travel app or business card builder. However, there would be a place for these goals on a Persona created for a financial planning company or online couples’ therapy service.

3. Experience goals describe how personas want to feel when using a product, for example, having fun and feeling relaxed. Not every persona needs experience goals, but in some cases, they are useful to include. Perhaps a Persona struggles using Social Media and wants to feel confident when making online profile decisions. Or a persona using an online banking site, for example, might want to feel reassured that his transactions are secure.

#6. Fears, doubts, and frustrations

What is preventing your persona from achieving his or her goals? What concerns does she have? What are her frustrations with current solutions already available? This section is key when it comes to honing the features and services of your product.

#7. Buying behavior: Brands & Channels

Define past and present buying behavior of your customers. Is your typical customer a returning one or rather interested in a single purchase? If it’s the first case, what makes them come back?

What are your users’ favorite or most used brands? Display their logos in this section. Some of these featured brands may turn into or already be your competitors! You can find brand images at Brands of the World.

How are you going to reach your target audience.? You might not find your grandma on Twitter and you’re sure as not going to find your 12-year-old nephew reading the Wall Street Journal. If your audience is a tech-savvy college student, the best way to reach them might be online & social media. A teenager might be better reached through television ads through traditional media. From your research, you should have a good picture of what sort of medium your audience is primarily using or can be found on. We picked four broad categories:

Traditional Ads: television, radio, print, billboards, etc.

Online & Social Media: banner ads, streaming video/audio ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Referral: recommendations from friends and family, online reviews, influencer blogs, etc.

Guerrilla Efforts & PR: events, experiential marketing, out-of-home advertising, etc.

As you can see these are very broad categories — you could even list all of the options if they’re relevant to your consumer.

#8. One-line summary / Persona quote

Coming up with a one or two sentence summary that tallies up your persona’s ultimate expectation, keeps your team’s focus fixed on specific marketing goals.

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About the author

Joshua Goldfein is the Founder of WPHelp Center and CEO of Mercury Digital Agency. Joshua has over 15 years of experience helping businesses the world over strengthen their digital brands and improve customer experience.

Joshua Goldfein CEO / Founder mercury creative