Persona Grata

Have you ever been shopping online, put something in your cart you wouldn’t usually buy and right at the last second before you closed out of that tab for good you changed your mind and decided to buy it? If yes (or even if no) congratulations, you’ve made a decision that shapes your persona. Buying, closing out and purchasing at the last second are all important characteristics for companies to know when collecting data on their consumers. That last second mind change told more about you and who you are than you might think!

What you shop for, where you shop, who you shop with and when you shop are all little decisions that make up your persona. A persona is, according to Smashing Magazine,

“…a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. A persona is depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from observations of many people.

So, going back to the shopping example earlier, while you individually made the decision to purchase the goodies in your cart, that decision lumped you into a group of people that also made that decision. From there companies can see what factors influenced you and the people that also made the split second choice, to change their minds. And that decision became an element in your persona.

“But Libby, when do you make a persona? And how can they be used in design?” Excellent questions! Normally personas are created at the very start, before anything is designed so you can reference your personas as what the people that will actually be using your site/ product/ anything will actually want to see. But that’s not the only time, personas can be recreated or referenced back to at any stage in the design process. Listen to The UX Review if you don’t believe me,

“Personas give you a great start in understanding about who you are designing for. They are an important input into many other UX and project activities and can be referred back to at any stage in a project to make sure everyone keeps focus on the user.”

At the end of the day personas are made, used, referenced and recreated to keep the user in mind. When you create a persona you are quite literally making a user to interact with your product. This is the standard prototype with the generic characteristics of your future users.

Let’s get into an example of creating personas so you can create your own for you next project. To start it’s important to get the basics down, for this example I’ll be creating a persona of myself but in the PDF linked at the bottom I created a fake persona you can look at as well.

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The beginning of persona creation should focus on the bare bones of who is going to be using your product. As seen above this includes name, age, location, occupation, education and family status. It’s also a good idea to record quotes that your persona says, not just anything that pops into their mind, but related to your project.

Next in persona creating you should consider your target audience’s goals and current behavior. I think this is one of the most important steps because it can distinguish between what your audience wants vs. how they act. This can be important because it can tell what your audience wants but the effort they’re willing to put in to get the result they want.

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Motivation vs. ability expands on the step above but flushes it out more. This includes what motivates the audience/ persona, what stops the audience and what is a potential trigger for the audience.

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Lastly it’s important to consider your persona’s environment and influencers. This step is one I consider to be one of the more important ones because here you can discover what factors will persuade your persona. What makes them change their mind and check out that random item in their shopping cart? This is where the truth comes to light!

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Of course personas are helpful but they’re more helpful when compared against other personas. When they’re together in a miniature focus group you can really begin to create some user focused designs. Personas are created with the user in mind and are a great way to keep them in mind throughout your whole process. If you’re not sure about a specific element just ask yourself if your persona would like it.

Check out my full persona PDF here: Libby Persona

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