For decades, the concept of user personas has been associated with marketing, advertising, user-centered design, and business analysis. Nowadays, personas are winning the deserved attention of Information Developers worldwide.
Usually, the creation of user personas is initiated by UI/UX designers or business analysts. But what if you do not have any in your team? In my project, I created user personas myself and was surprised how it changed the quality of my content.
Deep understanding of readers is fundamental to creating qualitative and effective content.
In this article, I am going to review and consider user personas from the perspective of an Information Developer.
What are user personas?
When you understand who your users are, their needs and tasks, their behavior when navigating the documentation, the process of content creation becomes easier and more efficient. As a result, the documentation becomes more valuable, concise, and effective.
A user persona is not a real individual, but a fictional character that is created to represent different user types that might read your content in a similar way. A persona is described with goals, needs, tasks to be completed, and traits that are inherent to a particular type of users.
Don’t assume that readers think, read, and navigate your content the way you do.
Why create user personas?
Personas help prevent self-referential thinking. Very often Information Developers create content as if they are creating it only for themselves, when in fact the audience is quite unlike them. User personas help us understand for whom to write, what to write, and how to present the information.
The goal of personas is not to represent all audiences, but, instead, to focus on the major needs of the most important user groups.
If you try to write for all readers, you write for no readers.
When you navigate your content from a reader’s perspective, it is a lot easier to determine what information is useful and what key workflows and procedures are lacking.
Often, we are so focused on requirements that we forget who is actually using the product.
User persona elements
The description of a user persona typically includes from seven to ten elements. The information included may vary immensely from product to product. The important thing is that this information makes sense to the team and everyone has a common understanding of the final user.
User personas generally include the following key pieces of information:
- Picture: Picture or sketch of a persona that illustrates the personality.
- Profile: Basic social, demographic, and geographic information, like fictional name, age, gender, occupation, family status, residence country, education, or other information that you may find helpful.
- Key quotes: Quotation that captures the essence of the personality of a persona, reflects behavior and attitude.
- Personality: Persona behavior, mental model, traits of character.
- Goals: Goals the persona hopes to achieve, tasks to complete, life goal to reach, experience to feel, motivations, needs, desires, etc.
- Frustrations: Frustrations to avoid, obstacles that prevent from achieving the goal, problems, etc.
- Bio: Short paragraph to describe the user. This might be with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.
- Technical expertise: Computer skills, usage of devices, platforms, and software applications, etc.
- Brands: Collection or list of favorite brands.
This list of elements is not exhaustive and may include other characteristics of a user persona that the team considers important and informative.
User persona sample
Some personas are incredibly detailed, whereas others simply offer a brief sketch of each type of user. I created this persona sample for a fictional product “Connectie”—online social networking service that enables users communicate with other members, send and receive messages, share photos and videos, like, dislike, and share posts.
The type of information presented, number of persona elements, and the level of details included in a card varies upon the product needs.
Creating user personas helps you better understand your readers, their needs, goals, and tasks. By thinking about the needs of a fictional persona, you are actually able to infer what a real person might need. Remember that your readers think, read, and navigate your content differently than you do.
Disclaimer: All the images are used for the research purpose only. The title image is by Katie Wasserman.