Personas and their role in web design

“Personas are the single most powerful design tool that we use. They are the foundation for all subsequent goal-directed design. Personas allow us to see the scope and nature of the design problem… [They] are the bright light under which we do surgery.”

Alan Cooper

Marta Guimarães Ferreira
Feb 15 2022 • 3 min reading
Personas and their role in web design

What are Personas

If you come from the marketing world, you’re probably familiarised with this concept, however, in this week’s blog entry we’ll be highlighting its virtual aspect, in other words, the importance of using personas when building a website and their role in creating a user-friendly platform. Usability and utility are two factors that determine a site’s longevity, which means that knowing your customers/users, predicting their needs and pain points are key components to making a successful website.

Personas are fictional characters that encompass your users’ behaviors, motivations, goals, frustrations, hence represent a powerful tool for web designers when creating a user-centric website. In 1998, Alan Cooper, renowned programmer and software designer, also known for having introduced this concept, defines Persona, in his book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, as:

“(..) a fictitious, specific and concrete representation of target users”

How to create a Persona
To create a persona you firstly need to know your customer/target audience. If your business is currently online you can use google analytics, e-commerce analytics tools, social media, online reviews, etc to gather useful information about your users. However, if you haven’t yet settled your business online, or don’t have these tools to resort to, don’t worry, you can always create a more hypothetical, yet valid, set of personas. A brainstorming session with your team where you outline your user's main characteristics can go a long way!

As pointed out by Ren Walker at Adpearence, when creating personas we should always look for them to answer the following questions:

  • Who are they? (Name, location, age, salary, occupation, hobbies, personality traits, etc. Placing a picture may even help you visualize the persona better).
  • What are their main goals when visiting your website?
  • What are their frustrations and pain points?

Find some examples of Personas by designer Arthur Chayka below.

Benefits of using Personas

  • The design is focused on the user and their experience, which leads to a significantly more human, practical, and realistic website (this goes hand in hand with an ever-growing Human-to-Human Marketing trend).
  • Makes it easier to establish priorities and speeds up the decision making process throughout the many development stages (from a content planning phase, e.g. information architecture, to UX and UI)

Using personas guarantees that you are building a customer-centric website and that you always have the user’s experience in mind, this is the only way to assure your website’s longevity. Like any work of art, a website only comes to life when there’s an interaction between the object and its observer.

Please note, your browser is out of date.
For a good browsing experience we recommend using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.