What Are User Personas?

What Are User Personas?
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You might have heard of user personas but might still be asking, What is a user persona? Why would you need one?

As  a UX designer, my goal is to design software that is useful to the people who will be using it. To that end, having a well-researched user persona in place is fundamental to our user-centric design process and something we undertake at the start of our Discovery process.

What is a user persona?

A user persona captures relevant information about the end users of a product, consolidating and streamlining that information into commonalities that are helpful in guiding product decisions.

User personas answer the question: Who are we designing for?

Unlike a marketing persona, which generally represents and segments the customers who buy but not necessarily use products and services, a UX persona (user persona) represents the actual end users of a product. User personas are the basis of user-centric design. At Stride, we create our user personas early on in the process and use them as a touchstone throughout the entire lifecycle of a project.


Creating a UX persona

Developing a strong UX persona depends on thorough research. In cooperation with our product management team, designers at Stride conduct user interviews constructed within the context of the project to gather as much information around:

  • Goals. What is the user trying to achieve? What do they need or want?
  • Pain points. What frustrates the user about this process? What makes it difficult for a user to complete this task?
  • Motivations. Why does the user want to do this [faster/more accurately/at all]?
  • Definition of success. What is the user’s view of a successful process or product?

Understanding these key points creates empathy for the end users and helps the product team relate to the end users’ expectations, concerns, and their idea of success. With this information, we can begin to design and develop a solution that addresses those key points, rather than a product that simply achieves the steps of a given process.

One thing to keep in mind when creating a UX persona is that the research should focus on the context of the product as opposed to an overall general research. This will help you keep the persona streamlined, easy to use and focused on the details that will serve a design purpose. That does not mean that UX personas should focus solely on functionality. Demographics and user environment often play a role in how a persona interacts with the product to achieve their goals. Again, it is the context of the product that will help in your research to uncover what is relevant to the project.


Using UX personas makes a better product

UX personas inform all aspects of designing and developing software. For designers, they act as a touchpoint during ideation. 

Does this proposed design meet user needs and address pain points? 

Is this design usable?

They are used by product managers to help determine the prioritization of features. UX personas give engineers useful background information on why something was designed a certain way. QA teams find them helpful when writing test scripts. 

In short, because UX personas represent users who will actually use the technology and services, they become checkpoints throughout the design and development process to confirm that what you build will be useful.

Alice Toth

Alice Toth

Principal Designer

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