User personas are descriptions of fictional people who typify a key group of users of a website. They are a device that helps gain a stronger understanding of user goals, needs, behaviour patterns, attitudes and environment.
Personas are fictitious, so should be complemented with analytics data, interviews with members of target audiences and usability testing. By bringing all these elements together, a true picture of users can be formed.
The greatest value of personas comes from frequent in-depth discussions about them at each stage of development of the digital service asset.
- Prospective undergraduate student user personas (PDF)
- Prospective postgraduate taught student user persona (PDF)
- Prospective postgraduate research student persona (PDF)
- External academic user persona (PDF)
- General public user persona (PDF)
- All user personas (PDF)
There are four criteria for a successful persona project (identified by user experience engineer Jared Spool).
Internalise the personas
Each team member has the same personas in their head, making them seem real.
Create rich scenarios
Team members can talk through the personas’ scenarios in detail.
Team members know which personas are the most important, and which could be sacrificed if there had to be a compromise.
Knowledge of personas extends beyond the team, to all people with an influence on the digital service asset. Stakeholders and other influencers are also well versed in personas, their scenarios and the priority.
When assessing feature requests, user stories can be created and analysed from the point of view of the personas.
As a [persona]
I want to [task]
so that I can [goal].
Example user stories
Persona-weighted feature optimisation
When determining how features should be prioritised, they can be tested against personas. A persona-weighted feature optimisation matrix is used to assess the importance of new features.
Each proposed feature is assessed by how much each persona would like the feature, using the following scoring system:
- 2: persona will love this
- 1: persona will like this
- 0: persona will be indifferent
- -1: persona will hate this
If some personas are more important than others, consider weighting them.
The most important user groups should be identified by analysing the business needs.