9 Steps on How to Create Personas






User persona is one of the tools to define and design a product and what’s so amazing about it is that the process of creating user persona encourages you to be in touch with your human emotion.


If you are clueless on how to create a user persona, you are in luck! I am here to tell you all the steps you can take to create a user persona!

All the steps will be depicted and explained in detail, so this is also easy for designers from any levels of expertise. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced one, all of you can benefit from this list.


This list is based, curated, and simplified from Kim Goodwin’s book titled “Designing for the Digital Age: Creating Human-Centered Products and Service”. The real deal is a 68 pages describing all about the user persona (including why it is encouraged to make one, examples, and more). This post only talks about the steps on how to make one.


So let’s dive right into it!


What is a persona?

Persona is an archetype that describes your user or customers’ behaviour patterns and goals.

Defining the persona is very useful for designing, building consensus, marketing the product, and even fixing the bugs! So I encourage designers to make a user persona to ease the further design and development process.


Before you start your persona-making, research or interview about several people that are best suited for your product. For example, if you are making a website that provides a platform for room rental, you may get people that are renting a room or are looking to rent a room, as well as owners who are looking to rent out their room for income. You might not want to interview those who are personal homebuyers and are not interested in renting out their room and never rent a room in the past year or so. Therefore, just find people that are suitable for your product.


For the sake of this post, let’s just say i am interviewing these 3 people :

Betty, James, and Louie. And let me introduce you to them :





(of course, in the real persona-making you have to interview more than 20 real people)


Next, here are the steps :


Step 1. Divide by their role


How to divide them by the role is to find out what are the tasks they perform.


Example, in this room finder app, the several roles are :

People who rent rooms, owners who rent out rooms, and agents who help owners rent out their rooms. Therefore, there are 3 different roles that we can divide.

If the difference is too subtle between the role, just ignore that difference and group them as one. For example, you might want to combine people who rent rooms and people who are looking for rooms for their child as their roles are similar. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the demographic later. The next step is to find out a behavioural variable.





Step 2. Behaviour and demographic


Find out the behaviour of each role. What behaviour is different from each other? Map out your interviewees response.


There are 2 types of variable maps :


1. Continuum

2. Multiple-choice


What’s the difference?


Continuum is when there is a range of the variable. For example : often to never, expensive to cheap, near to far.





Multiple choice is when there are several different choices. For example, reasons for why they rent this room : a. Near to their workplace, b. Good room design, and c. Because it is cheap.


The typical behaviours to get you started :

1.Mental model : the mental model/ knowledge user has on how to accomplish certain task

2.Goal/motivation : why they wanted to do this or what motivates them to accomplish the task

3.Frequency/duration of the task : how often they do it

4.Quantity of the data : how many data do they interact with? A property rental agent may deal with 100 listings per day but a property owner may only deal with 3 listings per day.

5.Attitude regarding the task : do they accomplish this task for fun? Or is it something they just had to do?

6.Technology skill : Are they familiar with technology? Can they use computers fluently? What is their skill with certain technology?

7.Task(s) performed : do they accomplish many tasks per day?


So you can probably use these typical behaviours to get started, but remember that this is not a law that you must follow. You should always customise this according to your real user.


The next is demographic. Demographic helps you to connect behaviour and their demographic aspect and this is to find out if their demography has anything to do with their behaviour. For example, Betty grew up in an urban city of Kuala Lumpur, so maybe this explains why she is good at using smartphones and computers.


The rule of thumb is to ask yourself : is there any demographic or environmental factor that may affect this behaviour?


Once you done list them out, let’s go to the next step!


Step 3. Map it with the variable


Here, you should draw a simple map and put their names according to their responses.


For example : Ranging from familiar they are with technology, there are 2 ranges of variable :

Familiar to not familiar.


Betty answered she is familiar with technology, James is also familiar, while Louie is not familiar at all. So you can put Betty and James in a near position while Louie is on the opposite end of the spectrum.


So here is the map looks like :





Now do take note that multiple choice variables may be occupied by the same people. Example : Betty rented this room because it is cheap and it’s near to her workplace. So you can put Betty’s name on top of these two reasons.


Here is how the map would look like :





And here is the example of the overall map :





Understand it? (assuming you do) Great! Let’s go to the next step!


Step 4. Find pattern


Now that you have a clear map on your hand, let’s try to find a pattern.

For example, in this map, Betty and James seem to have many similarities. Their names appear to be in close proximity in all 7 questions. Circle this finding of yours.





Now let’s turn these findings into simple sentences.


Both Betty and James :

-Familiar with technology

-Searched or processed many listings on the daily basis

-Don’t actually like doing this room searching process

-rarely finds room to rent

-Process/contact slightly many owners/agents

-Have a similar way in finding a room

-Want to find a room for their own stay as their goal.

-Want to find a room near their workplace


Now let’s find the reason why they both have these same behaviour :

-Both Betty and James grew up in the urban city of Kuala Lumpur (which explains their tech familiarity)

-Both Betty and James engaged in more than 5 different apps and websites on a daily basis (which explains their tech familiarity)

-Have a busy and stressful job (which explains why they don’t like room searching process and looking for room near their workplace)

-Have rented a room several times before (which explains why they have same mental model of how to find a room)

-Both are single and not having any spouse or family (which explains why their goal is to find a room for themselves)


Now that you have these people with similar behaviour and demographic, you successfully have 1 persona!


The more different patterns you see, the more persona you have. However, I would suggest you to have as little personas as possible.


Oh hey, what about Louie that doesn’t have any pattern?

This is called Outliers. Outliers are the interviewee that doesn’t fit the target audience. So you can ignore Louie (sorry, Louie!)


On to the next step!



Step 5. Define Goal


Here’s a simple way on how you can define a goal : keep asking “why?”.

When there is an answer, ask “why?” again. Keep asking why until it is not possible to answer it.


Before we get started, there are 2 types of goal :

1.End Goal

2.Experience Goal


What’s the difference?


End goal is the real reason why someone chooses to do things in a specific way.
Experience goal is a feeling the person wanted to get while completing a task.

You’d want to have 3-4 clear goals for every persona.


Let’s take Betty.


She said she likes this room because it is cheap. She also mentioned that she doesn’t actually enjoy looking for room to rent.


Let’s start from cheap.

Q : Why does she want a cheap room?

A : Because she wanted to save money

Q : Why?

A : Because she wanted to buy house in the future

Q : Why?

A : it is just her dream to own a house.


Now we can’t really ask why is it her dream to own a house, can we?

So her dream to own a house is the end goal here.


And then, let’s talk about why she doesn’t like to find room for rent?


Q : Why doesn't she like to find room for rent?

A : Betty feels it is so time consuming!

Q : Why?

A : She has to spend hours and hours to talk to owners, finding out the room she likes is not available, find it again, spend some time to visit the room, it is exhausting


So in this part, we can assume there is an experience goal here. She feels it is exhausting to find a room to rent. So she would want to have a better experience in finding a room that won’t exhaust her.



Step 6. Clarify Distinctions


Sometimes there are certain things that we have to pay attention to and take note. Sometimes these things appear during an interview, subtly or explicitly.


The key is to link behaviour that is close to the product’s purpose.


Some of the typical distinctions are :


-Frustrations : it seems frustrating to Betty on the process of finding room to rent.

-Environment : Louie grew up in a remote area, that is why he finds it difficult to find a room to rent using technology.

-Skills : Betty has a degree in digital marketing, this further explains why she is so familiar with technology

-Feelings/aspirations : Betty strive to be an independent person, therefore she likes to use technology to solve a lot of problems instead of asking other people’s help

-Demographic : James grew up in the urban city of Kuala Lumpur, that is why he is familiar with technology.

-Interaction with other people : Louie is a very social person, he relies on connection to complete tasks, that includes finding a room. He prefers to ask people around instead of using technology.

-Relationship among the personas (organisational archetypes) : for example 2 different companies might have the same business model but they do things differently. Let’s say the government learning centre might operate differently than a private training centre. This is one distinction you also have to take note.


Step 7. Fill In Other Persona Types As Needed


This step is probably the extra and optional step. It doesn’t really happen in several cases, but it does happen from time to time. For example, if your stakeholders say that your product has both users and customers and you only did the user persona, it’s time to make the customer persona as well.


Just in case you are not sure what’s the difference, a user is the person who uses your product while the customer is the one that buys your product. Sometimes in some products, the customer might not be the user, so it is best to be clear about this and make a different type of persona when needed. Example : an HR web portal might be bought by CEO of the company but actually the user is the HR of the company.


Do note that there is this thing called Negative persona!

Wow, sounds scary, what’s that?

Well negative persona is the kind of persona that might ruin your other important persona’s experience in using the product. Some companies will have stakeholder that says “oh wait we need to make product for the type of people that are [insert completely random person here]” when actually out of 100 people that used the product, only 2 of them possess that completely random criteria. And your stakeholder told you to build their persona as you need to design for their consideration as well. Designing for this 2% of people might ruin the other persona that occupies 50% of the user and therefore, you lose even more users/customers. So be careful with this.



Be careful of Negative Persona



Which..brings us to the next step!


Step 8. Group and Prioritise Persona


Let’s group all the personas you have (if you happen to have more than 2 personas).

Group them into 2 different groups :


1.Primary

2.Secondary


Primary persona is the one you’d want to prioritise. Typically, you'd want to design for this group first.


Question is, how to figure out which one is primary and which one is secondary?

Primary persona group is the one that will less likely bother the experience of another persona group.


Step 9. Do the Narrative


Now here is the story telling part. I am sure you have seen many published personas in this type of content. It is most likely because this is indeed the final part. This marks that you are done creating user persona.


However, there are certain designers that skip right to this last step and didn’t do the other 7-8 steps first (that includes me!)


In fact, I have been in a digital marketing course that tells us to do this one last step only and use our imagination to complete it. Now, I’m not saying that is wrong, but I think this step from Kim Goodwin’s book makes much more sense and has a stronger foundation which can be relied on in many different ways.


So how you want to narrate it is :


1.Photo

Choose the photo that the most accurately and generally represents your persona. For example, Betty is 25 years old. Don’t pick the photo of an old looking woman. Also, don’t choose stock-photo-ish photo that poses for the camera, it’s just not as natural. You’d want to be as natural as possible.

You also want to avoid using cartoon image or illustration.





2. Narrative

Observe them in detail when you interview them and ask other details of them as well. Just remember not to run too far from the subject.


You’d want to start from point form first and then only make sentences.


Sample narrative for Betty :

Age = 25

Job = Digital Marketer

City = Kuala Lumpur

Last House/current house = lives with her parents in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur

Media Influence = SAYS, Vulcanpost, the Star Online.

Website/app Influence = Facebook, Instagram

Reason to rent room now = moving different workplace


What she likes about her current place = it’s free to stay and can see her family all the time

What area she is looking for = Cheras

What other ares she considers = Bukit Bintang, KLCC, KL Sentral, Taman Melawati

When did she start looking for place = she accepted a job offer that is located in Cheras

Decision criteria = Under RM500 rental, near LRT, has wifi, single non-sharing room, near to her office.

Desired Features = furnished, include utilities, low to no deposit.

Researched Tools = Mudah.my , iBilik, Facebook.


3. Draw a diagram


Let’s find out how Betty ‘s process in finding a room to rent and draw it out.





Aaaand that’s it!

You got your persona!


To thank you for reading this until the end, here are some tips on how to make a persona!


  1. Always remember to analyse the persona description and explain why does it matter to your product. Cross out any description that doesn’t have a good reason.

  2. In narrative, avoid putting unnecessary information that is not related to your product. For example the name of their dog, their car color.

  3. Don’t introduce wishlist or product requirement to your interviewee

  4. Don’t add fictitious detail

  5. Avoid spending too much money and time for making a persona.

  6. Don’t expect persona to be one ultimate way to make a product. Remember there are other aspects that may contribute to the success of your product such as the design, the development, marketing, after sales service, etc.


I am planning to make a simple web page of checklist you can use to make a user persona but let me brush up my coding skill first (I mean I don't have one but I'll learn!)


UPDATE : the checklist page is here! https://lenitjahjadi.github.io/personachecklist/

Report to me if you encounter any problem.


What's the next tutorial I should write ? 🤔

Leni Tjahjadi

UX Design, Copywriting, UX Writing, Marketing Visual, and Branding

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