Developing Personas for UX

This detailed outline was made from my notes during a UX workshop at MIX 2010.

Personas are not market segments.


  • Built on different types and styles of interaction
  • Focus on defining user’s goals and how to meet them
  • Primarily based on qualitative research
  • Rich understanding of people


  • Built on different buying behaviors
  • Focus on how the business can reach and attract them
  • Relative quantitative size of segments is important
  • Usually based on quantitative data (surveys)

Learning from users

  • User interview during participatory sessions
  • One-on-one sessions to walk through their tasks, jobs, and daily routines
  • Direct observation
  • Site visits, contextual inquiry and other observations techniques to learn first-hand how people go about their work
  • Indirect observation
  • Watching training classes, listening in our customer support lines
  • Gathering stories through interviews
  • Using the critical incident interview technique

What do we want to learn?

  • Personal characteristics
  • Demographic details
  • Personal characteristics
  • Job or domain knowledge
  • Computer and web skills
  • Goals and tasks
  • Activities
  • Tasks
  • Motivations
  • Influencers or advisors
  • Decision factors
  • Barriers
  • Expectations
  • Attitudes and needs
  • Information needs
  • Tactile and visual
  • Trust and assurance

Developing stories  personas

  • Stories provide rich information in an indirect format
  • What do they tell stories about?
  • Who is in their stories?
  • What situations do they describe?
  • Real quotations help you hear their voices
  • What words to they use?
  • How do they talk about the task or product?

Create the Persona

  • Personal characteristics: job, age, education, etc.
  • Goals and motivation
  • Attitudes, need for trust and assurance
  • Great quotes from the personas
  • Information needs
  • Background: the persona’s story
  • Scenarios: stories of why and how they would use the product

OPTIONAL [Expand the character development with the personas with additional details]

  • Make sinse in the context of the project:
  • > Reflect part of the environment or context of use
  • > Suggest how the persona might make an important decision
  • > Create a personal history
  • Help differentiate the personas:
  • > Expand on the differences between them
  • > Suggest different design choices
  • > Connect to usability issues:
  • > Usability needs
  • > Learning styles
  • Let the team get to know the personas:
  • > Reveal personal choices, lifestyles, or activities
  • > Develop an interesting story around the persona

Sharing the Personas

  • Formal
  • > Through presentations, education sessions and posters
  • > On the team web site or intranet
  • Informal
  • > Use them in stories and scenarios
  • > Refer to them during meetings
  • Use them for design reviews
  • > Subliminal
  • > Include them as the starting point for an discussion of “what users want”
  • > Find ways to keep them in view

I am a technologist with a strong background in software engineering. I have many interests. My current distractions are 70s-80s-90s music [it's a very eclectic collection], ontology, information architecture, mobile device technology, medical bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and nanorobotics.

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