A persona is a social representation of a character. Characters or personas in marketing and user experience UX design are used to represent a target market group. The characteristics of the individual presented through the persona are a grouping or consensus of social conventions often used by the target group. The individual persona’s lifestyle, requirements and aspirations for products and services are more easily demonstrated and more accessible to a new product development (NPD) team. The subtleties of social fashion and trends can be discussed within the NPD team. The alignment and prioritisation of a product design specification with the target market can be done though predicting the consumer choice the persona character may make in relation to the product or service.

The characteristics often found within a persona are:

  • Gender,
  • Age,
  • Physical characteristics (anthropometry/ scale, weight)
  • Health
  • Socio-ecconomic status,
  • Lifestyle (including employment, leisure), and,
  • Market research data is required, which may be obtained through literature review of National statistics surveys, Government census, market reports, and monitoring social media.

Primary source data may be obtained through, interview, observation, focus groups and empathic modelling.

A character may be defined that has a consensus or collection of characteristics that are frequently observed within the target market population.

The character may be represented through:

  • A written description,
  • A visualisation of the persona character,
  • A series of storyboards describing the character and lifestyle,
  • Role paly (an actor responding as the persona character), and
  • Computer simulation.
  • A persona is useful when a team of professionals are undertaking an NPD, as it provides a focus for discussion and debate.

A persona is best used near the beginning of a more detailed review of the target market’s requirements and aspirations for a product.

Persona’s do not replace confirmation of a product design specification with end users. Validation with end users is a critical to ensuring your product is matched appropriately to your market

Useful links

Cohen, L. Mannion, L., Morrison K. 2007. Research methods in education. 6th ed. London, New York: Routledge.

Langford, J., McDonagh, D., 2003. Focus groups supporting effective product development. Taylor & Francis, London.

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., Butler, J., 2003. Universal principles of design: 100 ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions, and teach through design, Rockport, Gloucester.

Morgan, D.L., 1997, Focus groups as qualitative research, second edition, qualitative research methods series 16, Sage, London

Martin, B., Hanington, B., 2012. Universal methods of design: 100 ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions, Rockport, Beverly.

Pruitt, J., Adlin T., 2006. The persona lifecycle: keeping people in mind throughout product design, Elsevier, San Francisco.