The Importance of Developing Personas in Product Design

Sample personas from MailChimp

Personas are an important design tool that should be in the toolset of any product manager or designer. Personas are fictional characters developed to represent the different archetypes of users of your product. A persona typically describes the goals, pain points, behaviors, and psychology associated with members of a particular segment. To bring them to life a name, a profile image, and sometimes even a background history are associated with them. A team usually develops one or more personas to represent the core audience of users they are optimizing their product for.

I’ve found personas to be an incredibly valuable design tool, especially at the earliest stages of product development, because they provide the following benefits:

Enabling your team to design products for user segments other than themselves
All too often members of your product and design team will instinctually fall back on designs that appeal to themselves as end users. When you are designing a product for which they are not in fact the target audience, personas are incredibly helpful to constantly remind your team who they are designing for. It’s also valuable in design discussions to enable various team members to ask whether the latest designs will truly appeal to the target persona.

A powerful prioritization tool to focus on the scenarios most important to your core personas
There are always too many desired scenarios to support and prioritization is inevitably critical to a projects success. Personas provide a concrete lens through which to make such prioritization decisions, as you can regularly evaluate whether the scenarios you are prioritizing are the most important to optimize for your core personas.

A valuable narrative to bring your user to life
Personas provide a valuable narrative to bring your users to life in any venue where you’re discussing the product. This could be with your own R&D team to ensure they know exactly who you are solving for, they could be with cross-functional or executive teams trying to understand your customers and the pain points you are solving for them, and even externally when articulating who you are designing your products for.

I encourage the use of personas at the earliest stages of product development to bring your users to life and focus your team’s efforts on developing designs optimized for your core audience.
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