Personas for a User-Centered Product

Amrisandha Prasetyo
5 min readMar 23, 2021

In the world of product development, we need to understand who we are developing our product for. If we have a strong understanding of our users, the product that we are developing will have a higher chance of solving their problems and meeting their needs, hence bringing value for them.

An example of a user persona. (Ariel, n.d.)

We can understand our users through personas. A persona is a hypothetical archetype of typical existing or target users. This archetype can be developed in the early stages of development. A persona usually contains a typical user’s demography, goal, motivations, frustrations, needs, and mindset.

Personas can act as a tool for developers to generalize typical users of the product. By utilizing personas, we can understand who we are developing the product for and their characteristics. Moreover, not only can this help build the same understanding among developers and stakeholders, but personas can also become a quick reminder for developers and stakeholders during decision making.

Personas are one of the most common archetypes in the user-centered design process. This means that personas can help us build understanding in developing a user-centered product.

Creating personas

According to the Neilsen Norman Group, there are 3 different ways personas can be created.

  • Proto personas
    The objective of this type of persona is to make assumptions of target users and build the same assumptions among developers and stakeholders, quickly. Even though this type of persona is not entirely based on research and does not guarantee an accurate representation of users, at least this type of persona can be made as a trusted guide by the team during the development process.
  • Qualitative personas
    The objective of this type of persona is to provide qualitative insights about users that can help developers and stakeholders create product requirements. These qualitative insights can help the team understand the goals, motivations, expectations, and frustrations of users. Furthermore, these insights can be obtained from qualitative research such as interviews, usability tests, or field studies.
  • Statistical personas
    The objective of this type of persona is to provide quantitative insights based on statistical analysis. These quantitative insights can help us understand users’ demographics and the trends of their behaviors. These insights can be obtained from data such as web analytics.

Furthermore, Lene Nielsen, Denmark’s leading specialist in personas, describes that there are four different perspectives on personas as follows:

  • Goal-directed personas
    The objective of goal-directed personas is to examine the process and workflow the user has to go through to achieve their goal. As this describes their journey in finishing a task, it is required to conduct user research beforehand. By implementing this type of persona, the requirements that will have to be fulfilled by the product we develop will be based on their goals.
  • Role-based personas
    The objective of role-based personas is to divide users based on their role. Even though this type of persona is goal-directed, but this persona focuses more on their behavior that reflects their role in an organization. This persona can help us understand the purpose of the users’ role as well as other roles correlated as well as business objectives.
  • Engaging personas
    The objective of engaging persons is to build a persona that describes real users the most. This is needed to help engage developers and stakeholders to understand and build empathy more deeply. This type of persona examines the emotions, psychology, and background of the user when they conduct their task.
  • Fictional personas
    Unlike other types of personas that are more research-based, the objective of fictional personas is to make assumptions of target users and build the same assumptions among developers and stakeholders. At least, a fictional persona can be a trusted guide during the development process. As there is no guarantee a fictional persona would be 100% descriptive of real-world users, fictional personas can later be improved throughout the process.

The aftermath of personas

After creating personas, they can be further used to develop other archetypes that will support the development process. These archetypes can include:

User matrix

A user matrix can be used to identify the different purposes of users when using the product.

Source: Rogers (2019)

User journey

A user journey can be used to represent the users’ process when completing a task, including their emotions and feedback during the process.

Source: Rogers (2019)

Sitemaps & permissions

Sitemaps & permissions can be used to represent which users can access what content in the product and how they can access it.

Source: Rogers (2019)

Our take on the personas

Developing Crowd+, a data annotation crowdsourcing platform, we had to develop our personas first. We took the proto persona approach during the development of our personas. Under existing circumstances, we weren’t able to allocate time and efforts to conduct further research about our target users. Hence, we build our personas based on our current assumptions, divided by the roles of our users. This approach quickly aligned the team’s view about who we want to develop this product for. Furthermore, it made us understand the different scenarios users can interact with the product based on their roles. Meet our three personas of Crowd+.

In conclusion, creating personas is crucial to building an understanding of who we are developing the product for. To develop a user-centered product, we have to build empathy for users so we can understand users’ goals, behaviors, mindset, values, and finally existing problems that our product can solve.




Amrisandha Prasetyo

Computer science student at Universitas Indonesia | Aspiring product designer 🎨💻