6 Minutes
   //   Jun 16, 2021

Who are we designing for?

Priyanka Jeph

Defining user personas through empathy, understanding generations, and storytelling.

 

A user persona is a fictional portrayal of the ideal person whose goals and characteristics represent the requirements of a larger bunch of people. A persona profile accounts for specific segments of the product's target user base. It mainly narrates demographics, behaviors, motivations, background, and interactions. The process of creating user personas falls within research methodology and if done right it works well for UX design.

Personas work well for UX design because they tell stories, help to see through users, help to understand the interaction between the end-user and end product. They communicate culture, organize and transmit information. More importantly, personas fuel imagination and ignite action that is required to ideate.

A well-defined and descriptive persona successfully explains the needs of users while also spotlighting the importance of features in an interface. The 3 simple points below can help everyone create more descriptive, viable, action-packed, and thought-provoking personas to drive a wholesome product design journey.

1. Empathize like you mean it.

The power of designing for humans lies in empathy. It's impossible to design and build a product without putting in deliberate efforts to understand people's behaviors, frustrations, fears, hopes, motivations, and goals.

User personas can be simplified by creating an empathy map early on in the process. A collaborative focus on this process offers unique insights about people's behavior, helps to understand honest problems and people who are experiencing the problem, creates effective solutions, and eventually helps in creating emotionally resonant user experiences.

2. Understand the ever-changing needs of people and how different generations respond to circumstances.

Alphas are the first generation completely born in the 21st century. They are self-aware, flexible, and have a habitual learning environment. The increased family time is creating a shift in their mindset and values.

The current world scenario has also influenced Alphas’ use of technology to learn, play and interact through FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, various online games, online school, and e-learning platforms.

So, forget toys this technologically immersed generation demands for gadgets and apps that come with it. Empathizing with their needs can't be avoided as 'gen alphas' are the current and surely the future users of many web products and services.

Gen Z are the ones born after 1996 and fall under the 9-24 age group. They are mainly influenced by social media-born trends and are the main part of social movements amplifying the need for diversity, sustainability, climate health, and mental wellbeing.

When Gen Z are a part of your persona building it's important to empathize with the changes they are experiencing with the current global scenario. They have been put on the spot as they experience a disruption in education and career opportunities. Their behavior is mainly being driven by a sense of protection for the survival of their generation.

An image showing four human illustrations holding smart phones representing Gen Z -- that comprises of 9-24 age group.

Millennials are those who are born after 1981, they are in the 24-40 age group. That means they are completing their education, beginning their career journeys, and also starting families.

They are critics who are driven by deep feelings of wanderlust and an insatiable need for exploration. As they enter middle age their priorities start to change to quality time with their families and chisel out space for themselves.

A Millennial persona can be described as a person who likes to be in control of themselves and question everything he sees and hears. As a skeptic who has high expectations when it comes to apps and websites and needs access to the most functional, usable, self-guided, nuisance-free, efficient user experiences.

Gen X belongs to the 41-56 age group. Gen X is viewed as loyal users and are now seeking effortless digital experiences as they reshuffle the ways to engage with each other, their families, and brands.

They are an extremely busy generation with a sense of courage and resourcefulness. Gen Xers are not afraid of committing to a long-term relationship with one web product that suits their needs and are open to cheerful, playful concepts and that create nostalgic experiences.

Boomers currently belong to the age group  56 to 75. They have either retired or on the precipice of retiring, but don't call them old or expect them to slow down. Between 2012 and 2019, boomers' tech usage grew 59%, which is likely to soar more. 

A boomer as a persona is someone who stays at home and as a result, is more exposed to reformative digital tools to connect with people and absorb information. This keeps them entertained and connected, filling the void of in-real-life interaction.

An image showing three human illustrations holding and working with different gadgets as boomers  -- that comprises of 56-75 age group.

Creating a persona by understanding the ever-changing needs of people and how different generations respond to circumstances helps to tap on the right emotions, trends and provides a real-time reality check to solve their specific problems, remove barriers, or minimize risks for the people you are designing for.

3. Art of Storytelling adds good enough reasons to believe the solution will work out.

Creating a persona needs a great story, this is where the art of storytelling comes in, and who doesn’t like a good story.

To create a story that doesn't fizzle out, here are 5 important folds to connect the unattached dots and convert the personas from mere picture descriptions to an “action figure”.

Establish a goal - Why is the persona using the product? Explain the problem here and the solution that is likely to be achieved with the solution.

Add context - Explain the interaction with the interface and the features that would make this interaction successful?

Let tech stay as human, as compassionate - Avoid adding excessive technical details. Keep the story real and avoid detailed descriptions of the interface that a user wouldn’t interact with.

Add more perspective - Take into consideration all aspects of the users’ way of looking, thinking, and interacting. More perspectives on users’ interaction with the interface help to make more informed design decisions.

End the result like a movie scene - So, what happened to the persona at the end? Was the interaction successful or does your interface require iterations? Describe the result of the interaction here to complete the story of your persona.

Adding the power of storytelling to the persona-building process helps to define interactions based on users' perspectives. A good story gives a good enough reason to believe the concept/solution will work out. Personas bring users into the design team and make them as real and compelling as design concepts and features of an interface.

To Sum Up

Research that comes from the empathy map, an understanding that is derived from real-time circumstances of different generations and efforts put in to create stories create a subtle but extremely important difference between understanding how users would interact with the interface than assuming how users must interact with the interface.

Personas enable decision-making at the highest level. They are highly effective and guide the whole UX design process but at the same time, they can be effectively exercised by different practices like sales, marketing, strategy, planning, human resources, and customer service.

Creating and building personas is teamwork. It is up to the UX researcher to educate the team about personas, UX writers to describe them, and UX designers to illustrate the user dominance it brings to a project and solidify the existence of user personas as a part of the design process.