Up Close And Personal: Putting the Individual Back into User Persona Development

An important element of usability testing for web design and development is the practice of persona crafting that can be studied to gather crucial information, benefiting the user interface and user experience designs. Often overlooked in the initial stages of website planning, design and development – the practice of developing user personas is a keystone of delivering an experience that is truly tailored to it’s user.

The majority of information in the development of user personas is through testing. These tests involve the close observation of selected participants as they maneuver through a site at their own pace, for the purpose of identifying any usability issues or problems. Once these issues have been discovered, a brand can determine the participants’ satisfaction with the website or product.

The driving intention is to collect as much data as possible in order to enhance and perfect user experience. Creating realistic representations of your key audience segments involves investing time in user research and web analytics – the more research you do, the better.

Providing a real view to the usability testing process, personas lend an actual conversation tone that can help designers to create the optimal user experience. Further, having a vague goal in place does not leave much room for personalization, and makes the entire project more difficult than it should be and can result in wasted time and frustrated efforts.

A few aspects to consider when designing these personas include: providing the clearest possible picture of the user’s needs and expectations, as well as how they will be interacting with your website or app; describe these personas as though they were real people with full backgrounds, goals, wants and values; zero in and focus on the most important user groups and cater the experience to them.

By crafting these ‘individuals’  – designers, information architects, and content creators can make sure that the entire experience is optimized properly and efficiently. The persona development process is conducted in the beginning, before the project fully begins, in order to shed light on the site’s functionality or shine the spotlight on new (previously unthought-of) opportunities.

  • Ideate 
Who are your users? Why are they interacting with your brand? What do they expect from that connection? What is their driving reason for coming to you?
  • Distill
 Search for themes that are universal, obstacles that the user experiences and how they view the product or service.
  • Package Name and organize each group, representing target users.

 Ensure that the personas are based on real people and not generalized stereotypes.
  • Refine 
 Separate into further (specific) personas, identifying more characteristics and prioritizing.
  • Personalize Develop and complete the descriptions of each persona, including motivations and needs.

Multiple personas may be developed, however, try to limit yourself to your intended site users, in order to make the process as smooth as possible – the goal of crafting these “users” is not to represent every audience and every website need, but to focus on the most important needs of the crucial user groups.

When developing personas, data is a critical tool to leverage, however, it’s critical to ensure that all personas are crafted upon an aspect of human element to achieve the closest representation of the actual individual connecting with the brand at hand.