Have a look at the chair below. Yes, that is, in fact, a chair. You might think: ''no way, nobody can sit like that!'', and that's where you're wrong. The chair is shaped to highlight the way we slouch, and abuse chairs with our preposterous posture.
The Disposture chair was designed by Jessica Ross, Emily Wallace and Cathrynn Healy, to help users recognize how uncomfortable and damaging their slouching can be to the body.
A tad extreme, maybe. Why not just create a flyer?
Because what these designers kept in mind was experience, and how stubborn the average chair-user is. They made great use of user personas, to really tickle the brain of their users.
From chairs to screens: every UX designer can learn a thing or two from this approach. In this article, we'll dive into User Personas and how you can use them to create better user experiences.

What are User Personas?

User personas are fictional, generalized representations of your target users. They help you to understand your users’ needs, goals, and pain points.
To create a realistic user persona, you’ll want to gather information about their demographics, such as age, gender, and job role. This information can be gathered from interviews, surveys, user research, analytics data, and feedback from prototypes or finished products.
You can then use this profile to create a fictitious name and picture for your target user. It often helps to make your user personas as human as possible, so designers and other people within your organization can relate to it more.
User personas are often presented in the form of a table or infographic. The following is an example of a table that shows the demographic information, goals, needs, and pain points for a fictional target user named Sarah:
Age: 25
Gender: Female
Job Role: Social Media Manager
Goals: Increase brand awareness, increase website traffic
Needs: Easily navigate website, find relevant information quickly
Pain Points: Frustration with slow website loading times

Who uses User Personas?

User personas in UX design are used for designing websites and applications because they help to ensure that the product meets the needs of the target user. In UX design, they're indispensable. But user personas are also used by product managers, designers, developers, marketers, and researchers.

What are alternatives to User Personas

There are several 'alternatives' to using user personas in UX design, although we'd recommend supplementing your user persona with other techniques, rather than substituting it. 
These techniques include using customer journey maps, use case scenarios, affinity diagrams, and customer feedback. However, user personas are often considered to be the most effective way to understand the needs of the target user. It's simply the best place to start.

How User Personas are used in UX design

User personas are used in UX design in several ways. First, they are used to get a better understanding of the target user. This understanding is used to create designs that meet the needs of the target user. 
Second, they are used as a tool for communication. User personas help designers to explain designs to stakeholders and team members in terms that they can understand. 
Third, they are used as a tool for testing designs. When looking for the people that can test a new design or product, UX researchers can test the candidates based on the user persona.
To make it more clear how you can practically use a User Persona in your design process, let's look at some of the questions UX designers should ask themselves.

“Who am I designing for?”

That's one of the first questions User personas help answer. By having in mind who your user will be, you can already make some basic decisions on layout, tools, and even color schemes. For instance, Gen Z users will be ready to use much more advanced interfaces than older generations, so that decision will be made for you.

''What is the goal of my user (persona)?''

Why is someone using your design? It might seem like an easy-to-answer question, but think about it a little harder. What problems is someone trying to solve? What have they done to get to this design? What knowledge do they have? This will help you create pathways that make sense to your user.

''How can I delight my user (persona)?''

Now you know the basic needs of your user. Time to spice things up with elements that surprise them, in the best way possible. How can you make your design stand out from other experiences with elements that make it even easier to use, more fun, more engaging or more educational? Always tie this back to the goals, needs, pain points and wishes you've researched before.

''What does this specific element add to my user's experience?''

Last but not least: it's all about cutting down on unnecessary elements. You might have snuck in some of your trademark design quirks, and while that can be great, they should make sense for the user persona you're working for. So go over all these extra elements, and decide which ones should go for this user persona. You can always save them for your next design!

User Personas in UX design

UX design is all about the user—as the name confirms. So, user personas are used in UX design to help create user-centered designs.

Why UX designers love User Personas

There are so many benefits to using user personas that go far beyond UX design. But let's focus on what UX designers can learn from user personas. They can help you to:

You get a better understanding of your target users

This might seem obvious, but it's something starting designers often don't think about. They get lured in by the creative part of UX design, dream up designs and portfolios that look amazing—but it all comes down to the usability of it, and learning about your users. This includes quite a lot of psychology, which will only enrich your knowledge as a designer and can make your job a lot more fun!

User personas improve communication between designers, developers, and other stakeholders

Trying to explain why you put a button in a certain place, why that shade of red is better, or why the logo definitely shouldn't be bigger can seem like an impossible task. Designers think in images, but user personas help them explain their ideas with words. 
From designer to designer, but also to the marketing team and other stakeholders: you will be able to tie your design decisions to what the user persona needs and wants, which will make conversations a whole lot easier. Just imagine (or have!) a picture and description of your User Persona on the table in every conversation.

You will make design decisions based on data rather than assumptions

''Women will react better to pink and men love browsing dark websites that seem like they're made out of concrete.'' It's just one of those outdated assumptions that doesn't do the human mind any justice at all. The way we use websites, apps and products is so much more sophisticated than we often realize, so if you want to create a design that works, it's paramount you dive into what people really think, need and feel. Let go of all your assumptions and start fresh!

Avoid designing for yourself or your “ideal” user

When thinking about your next design, the engines of your creative brain probably already start spinning. You're full of great ideas, but which ones are based on what you'd like to see, and which ones are about what users need? You can approach using user personas as a kind of grounding experience, which will help you design for the person who will actually use that.
This is also where it's important that you build realistic user personas, based on real people, not just dream users and customers. It's crucial that in your research you divide personas based on specific characteristics, and don't make a mix of their features to create your ideal customer.

Keep the user’s needs at the forefront of the design process

If the user loves it and can do what they set out to do, you've created a successful design. It can be tempting to lose yourself in design trends and artistic choices, so using a user persona can help you get back to the core of your job: creating something that works well.

Tips for using User Personas in UX design

Let's wrap it up! Here are a few tips for using user personas in UX design:
1. Do your research: In order to create an accurate user persona, you need to do your research. This means conducting interviews, surveys, and user research. Don't go forward based on assumptions.
2. Keep it updated: As your product or service evolves, so too will your target users. Make sure to keep your user persona up-to-date by occasionally revisiting your research.
3. Be specific: The more specific you can be when creating a user persona, the better. This means including as much detail as possible about their demographics, goals, needs. This will also help you with point one: the more specific you get, the more assumptions you can eradicate.

Who's your user?

If you're looking to seize your creative capabilities, and break bad design habits, start by researching your user persona. It might give you new ideas, and make your job a whole lot easier.


Iman Oubou