What is a persona?

A persona is a character sketch to get to know the “target audiences” that will be using the website or application that is being designed. They are the entry point of a process and a building block for the scenarios and the design. Once developed, this knowledge enables us to understand the persona’s wants and needs and how it intersects with the organizations goals and objectives. The value of personas is that they describe “real users” and not general market segments. They are a good tool for the team to envision the various users (primary, secondary, tertiary) and their key behaviours, attributes, and motivations when using the organization’s site or application. They are usually written in a narrative style, and although they are written about a single person they encompass research and interviews of several people who represent that type of audience group. In some cases, once the team moves into development mode, the personas with the image, characteristics, narrative, scenarios and features/functions, are taped up on the walls. They are placed on the walls for the development team to continually review the various personas and to build out the features and functions that address their wants and needs.

What do personas do?

  • They provide key inputs for building interactions that support business-critical user goals.
  • They act as the types of users of a site or application that represent the needs of larger user groups.
  • They help guide decisions about functionality and design.
  • They allow teams to cut through confusion by bringing various users to life.

There are three requirements for effective personas (Forrester 2007):

Based on ethnographic research

  • interviews and observation
  • conducted with representative users
  • can reveal goals, attitudes, and behaviors

Developed into archetypes that represent users’ key behaviours

  • When real users’ goals, attitudes, and behaviors are embodied in a vivid description of a single “person” with a name and face, designers and stakeholders can get to know their target users — and make decisions that support their needs.

 Used consistently throughout the design process

  • To ensure that personas get used, project teams must inform stakeholders about persona benefits and create an explicit plan for integrating personas into design and decision-making processes

What is the ROI of personas

According to Forrester research the persona development budget can be as much 20% of the overall redesign budget. For some organizations this is too high of a price to pay and risk designing without the proper understanding of their users. This can lead to drop rates, abandonment, brand disillusionment etc. However their can be a return of investment if the personas are created properly. By creating personas the design of the site/application will be more aligned with the audience wants and needs reducing redesign and redevelopment costs. Things like return visits, task completion, brand loyalty, and fewer service calls to the call centre is a return of investment for the organization.

How to sell personas correctly

  • create an offering page describing what they are,  how they are used and the process around creating them
  • provide samples as case studies to show the success and why they are of value
  • create a cheat sheet for those doing the estimates to ensure the approach, process, and estimates are consistent and they are estimated correctly
  • put an expiry date on them as technology changes rapidly and they will need to be revisited within a period of time


Dorsey, M. (2007, July 19). Forrester Research : Research : Best And Worst Of Personas, 2007. Retrieved from

Drego, V. L., & Dorsey, M. (2010, August 3). Forrester Research : Research : Best And Worst Of Personas, 2007. Retrieved from

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