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The Ultimate Guide to Personas and Why You Should be Excited

Updated: Sep 17, 2019


A persona is a fictional description of a target segment that you are designing your service for. It embodies the cultural and emotional body of a person. Though the case for and against personas exist grandly on both sides, personas continue to be used extensively among design thinkers and user experience designers. All in all, personas are relevant and effective if created and then used appropriately. Before we advocate our case for personas, we would like to elaborate on the difference between a "profile" of a customer and a "persona" (what we are experts in).


A "profile" is determined mainly by one’s buying behaviour and is developed based on demographics (age, location, race, gender etc). It is generally easy to dissect due to distinct hard facts and numbers, and easy to search for when you conduct customer interviews. Though they may come in handy when dissecting sales analytics and conducting customer interviews, this is not what we are interested in today.

Today, we share our passion and strong case for personas! "Personas" is the root word for "personality" and is determined mainly based on user needs, behaviours, motivations, lifestyle and personality. It is extremely qualitative and rich- personas give guidance to design teams on how to actually design for people. Though quick and stereotypical, they are built on hours of contextual inquiries and user interviews.


Example of Persona Mindy Chan- Shoppaholic with Passion to Help

So why do we get so excited about personas?

Firstly, it builds empathy. Building a persona helps you visualise and feel the pains and needs of your user. The user you are designing for is no longer a statistic but a real person with real needs and aspirations. When developing ideas, it is easy for one to fall in love with your own idea and continue the process in a self-referential manner. A persona takes your bias out of the design and focuses your solution on the user, ensuring that a real need is met.

Besides yourself, it also helps align the team by building a common understanding of user needs. Meetings and discussions over ideas and products can be streamlined to focus on the persona needs. This may be exceptionally useful when you need to convince a senior stakeholder of a design decision. Essentially, a well-developed persona can be used when your team maps out its strategy all the way to product/service implementation. Some teams do this by displaying their personas all over the office (even in washrooms, we hear) to help team members form a connection to the personas and design with greater empathy.


Have "Anna Lee- Thrifty Fashionista" pasted in your office- How might we design for her?

So now, how do we create these personas that we vouch so passionately for?

Interviews, interviews, interviews!

Talk to your users, get to know them and ask them lots of questions. Then identify patterns in users’ responses and build an affinity map. Cluster pain points, behaviours, goals and expectations to build an archetypal model based on clusters seen. Then map these models to a human stereotype for pectoral reference.

It can get tricky and one may easily map a 65 year old user to a 70 year old user but remember that behavioural traits exist beyond demographics. A 65 year old senior executive may share similar traits to a 35 year old mother, eventually forming 1 persona. Oh and remember, give a nickname to the persona so that people can frame their minds, ie Thrifty Fashionista Anna Lee or Geeky Nerd David.

Build your persona according to profile, character, behaviour, expectations, motivations, needs and goals.


Personas can be as simple as a drawing as some key words.

Remember, personas are fun and humanise our design process!



Last Words

I will be adding more articles on design thinking throughout the year. Articles of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test will be added periodically to give my readers a broader insights to design thinking.

To follow my blog closely and get cool innovation ideas, like my FB page: https://web.facebook.com/designthinkingbook/

Article written by the brilliant Annusia: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annusia-balan

About the author

Daniel Ling has more than 10 years of design thinking experience and has moulded himself to be a “designer in a business suit”- strong in the design thinking process and yet relevant to the financial and business industry. He is an effective human factors designer- in areas of space, product and visual architecture for end users. He authored the Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals and the book is sold worldwide via Amazon, iTunes, Ingram, Lulu and Kinokuniya.

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