User Persona : A Designer’s Compass

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When you design a product, you might picture how you want the product to turn out. Some may start by creating several features and designs that they think everyone will like. Unfortunately, this is a wrong way of thinking and may lead your product into a pool of hot mess. Though designing sometimes relies on intuition, you cannot rely on it before understanding what your target user needs. After all, you and your customer are two different people.

It is extremely important to conduct a research about target users in order to have a successful product. The knowledge of what the user want and need will help you develop the right features. When you have an image of what the user needs, then you will improve their experience when they use your product.

One out of many approaches that could help you design a better and suitable application for your customer is User-Centered Design. UCD focuses on customer’s needs and understanding them before proceeding to the design process.

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Generally, there are four phases of User-Centered Design :

  • Plan — This phase is used to identify the target customer, what the application will be used for, and business goals while also analyzing competition of similar product.
  • Design — This phase is used to create a solution from rough concept to finished based on the information gathered in planning.
  • Prototype — This phase is where development and testing process takes place. After designing, a usability testing will be conducted. Through the test, we can decide if the design needs any fixing or is good to go.
  • ReviewThis phase is used to deliver the product to the customer. After the launching of the product, the customer will evaluate the product. New requirements may be added and another cycle will start.

In this article, I would like to write about one of the tools used in UCD’s process. If you have worked in the UI/UX field, you may be familiar with the term “persona”. If you are not familiar, then fret not! We will cover what a persona is and why you need them.

What is a persona?

A persona is a fictional profile that represents your target users who share the same goals and behaviors. Of course, this profile is based on a user research. At the very least, a user persona will answer these following questions about your target user :

  • Who is your target user?
  • What are their motivations and goals?
  • What is the issue(s) or pain(s) to achieve the goals?

The answers from one person to another may vary. You could probably end up with 50 different answers, but it is important to press them into one or two personas that represents the larger group. Too many personas would make the development team lose focus on the majority that needs to be represented.

Why do we need persona?

The answer is simple and revolves around one important goal. You’d want to launch a product that is valuable for the target user and comfortable to use. Not only is it beneficial for the target user, it is also a very vital tool for designers. Persona helps designers answer the question of “Who is this product for?” This information can be used to construct an effective design strategy and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

How to create a persona?

There are various ways to create a persona depends on what kind of data the product needs. But generally, the flow of creating a persona is covered by these five steps :

  1. Collect information about target users
    The first thing you need to do is to conduct a user research to obtain the motivations, goals, and pain-points of the target user. You can collect the data by interview, observation, questionnaire, and many other methods. Remember to choose the target user wisely and not the ones who aren’t relevant to your product.
  2. Identify patterns from the data
    Once you have a collection of data, it’s time to analyze them. In this step, you should group the people who have similar behaviors to help you focus on the majority.
  3. Create persona
    Describe a persona that represents the group that was analyzed earlier. There may be many audience segments that can be turned into a persona, but we should limit them so that the design process won’t be out of hand. While describing, don’t forget to be empathetic in order to understand the target user.
  4. Create an interaction scenario and user documentation
    A scenario is a narration that defines when, where, and how the user will interact with the product. It is necessary to add a scenario beneficial to understanding how the user will communicate with the product. Along with scenario, we should also cover some informations about this fictional profile. Generally, these informations are name, photo, demographics (gender, age, sex), goals and needs, frustrations, bits of personality. Informations included in one persona and another may be different as it depends on the project that you’re working on.
  5. Share the persona
    Once you’re done creating a persona, you should socialize it to your team members. Remember that before designing the product, everyone should be in unison.

To give you a little image on how a persona should be, this is an example of the one my team and I use for our PPL project.

The persona is made by our Product Owner. After reviewing the persona with our customer, we concur that the persona above has mentioned all the needs and pain-points of our customer. Therefore, it signals a green light to proceed into designing a wireframe and then a prototype.

Based on the persona, we create a UI design that will be able to satisfy the user’s needs. For example, the user wants to easily know the location of the document they search. To achieve that goal, we design a user interface that shows the hierarchy of files. We also bold the keyword that the user searched to make the file stand out and allow user to find it faster.

High-Fidelity Design of DocSer’s Dashboard Page

Furthermore, it’s stated that the user’s pain points is having to check the documents one by one to find the relevant result. To solve this problem, from the back-end side, we use MeiliSearch. It’s a highly customizable search engine tool that provides contextual search result. We believe that using this tool will help removing the user’s pain points.

Now that we’ve seen how it helps guiding designers to develop the product, we can conclude that the importance of user persona is indispensable. If we were to see it from the humane side, it also trains us to be a more empathetic and understanding individual. The bottom line (literally) is user persona should be a tool that every designer use as a compass towards a triumphant end of a high-quality product.

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