How to create an effective persona

Updated: Apr 3, 2019


The purpose of a persona is to help your client understand their customers’ needs and wants. The more specific your persona is, the easier it will be to customise your messaging to speak directly to them. Even though everyone is unique, people like to surround themselves with groups who share their values. This is why the expression “build your tribe” has become so popular. Any information you add to your persona should tell a story that helps your clients sympathise with their customers.


You will typically find yourself in one of two scenarios. Either you are working with a new company that need help identifying their ideal customers, or you work with an established company that wants to grow. In the latter case, make sure to find out as much as you can about their existing customers. Sometimes, a company attracts a different type of customer than they first expected. When this happens, it is important that they consider why this happened and how they can cater even better to their wants. The video streaming platform Twitch is a good example of this. Before the company started focusing on gaming, it was targeting all forms of online streaming. When the company was struggling, they looked carefully at who was using their platform and found that gamers were a small but highly dedicated group and decided to shift focus. Today, Twitch is a big player in the gaming community and was bought by Amazon for £585m.


A persona is a detailed description of a fictional person, but it is important to remember that the description still needs to be based on facts. Many designers find it hard to know where to find this information, so after we look at what to include, we will cover where to find it.



OVERVIEW:

  • Understand your client

  • What to include in a persona

  • Where to find the answers

  • Presentation

Understand your client


Before you can create a persona, you need to fully understand what your client is selling. From this, consider the benefits and the type of person who would value this. For example, working professionals tend to value saving time over money while students care more about finding the lowest price.


What to include in a persona


The key to an effective persona is to make the person feel real, like you know them. This means avoiding buzzwords like “techie” or “active shopper” and instead focus on the values and pain points this person would have.


An easy way to help your client connect with this person is to pick the right photo. It can sounds trivial, but a person that looks like a stock photo typically makes our brains think “advertising” and not “friend” or “mom”. Similarly, you can give your persona a nickname, favourite song or any characteristic that makes them feel real.


Below is an example of what a persona can look like. Make sure your descriptions are based on facts.


Where to find the answers


Statistical report sites

Online companies like Statista commission reports on a range of consumer topics like social media use, popular companies and demand. Most sites offer some of their content for free and more in depth reports for a one off fee. Statista also offers a monthly subscription but this is only a viable option if you need more than one report per month.


Government reports

In the interest of business and city planning, governments often issue reports on demographics and consumer behaviour. These are great if you are looking into topics like healthcare, family dynamics and transport. If you are in the UK, the Office of National Statistics has great detailed information about employment, ethnicities and tourism. Because the data is often showed for each region of the country, you can advise your client on the best markets for their product or service.


Customer reviews

It can seem daunting to read through reviews but this form of qualitative information usually gives a great insight into the frustrations a typical customer experiences. You can also find positive reviews that let you know more about why someone would buy from the company. If you are working with a new company, look at competitor reviews. This can also be helpful when you determine how to differentiate your design. If people are frustrated about the poor quality, focus on high quality in your designs.


Helpful places to start


Social media demographics by platform (visit site to see all)


Browse data based on industry, source and country


Presentation


Since you want to make sure your client understands the personality of the persona as well as the facts, I suggest meeting in person or have a virtual video meeting. Start by recapping why a persona is helpful and focus your presentation on helping your client get to know their customer.


After the presentation, send a document that includes the persona as well as all your sources and any detailed information you think the client could find helpful. It is crucial to back up your statements and decisions with facts and reliable sources. Showing your work will help the client trust your process even more. Make sure to stick to one type of referencing such as the “Harvard style” for consistency. If you are unfamiliar with how this works, you can use an automatic citation tool like Cite this for me.


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