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Foundations: Crafting Personas Without a Product

Foundations: Crafting Personas Without a Product

Yinnette Olivo
This insightful article explores the critical task of generating user personas and practical insights for envisioning potential users and their needs, even in the absence of concrete data or a physical product.

Building Foundations in UX: The Art of Persona Creation Without Existing Data

We all know that to create the most amazing experiences we need to first identify our target audience.

Creating amazing experiences requires identifying our target audience. Our target audience is the backbone of our product – the people who will benefit from the experiences we create and access it every day. In the tech industry, these people are known as “Personas,” fictional characters who represent our ideal user base.

Personas are crucial to ensuring that our solutions meet the needs of everyone involved, not just a single demographic. They give us a lens to understand who our users might be, what they want from our product, and how they might interact with it. By developing these characters, we can tailor our experiences to ensure they resonate with our users, and ultimately create a product that people love to use.

To create the most effective and successful products, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of your target customers and their unique needs and wants. As researchers, it’s important for us to approach UX/CX assessments with these key understandings in mind. We know that a user’s needs and preferences can vary greatly depending on their interactions with other users, as well as their individual circumstances and motivations.

When developing user personas, it’s essential to avoid over-engineering them and to focus on the most important information that truly impacts a user’s choices and needs. It’s important to remember that not all users have the same needs or wants from a product, so we must tailor our solutions to meet the needs of diverse user groups. By keeping these key understandings in mind, we can ensure that our products meet the needs of our users and provide them with the best possible experience.

 

Identifying your target audience is a crucial step in creating successful products or services. However, it can be a challenging task that requires a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and desires. Luckily, there are many effective methods for identifying your target audience and gaining insights into their preferences and behaviors.

One approach is to conduct thorough market research to gather data on your target demographic, including their age, gender, location, interests, and spending habits. This information can help you create accurate customer personas that reflect the needs and motivations of your target audience.

Another strategy is to engage directly with your customers through surveys, focus groups, or user testing. This approach can provide valuable feedback on your product or service and help you gain a better understanding of your customers’ preferences and pain points.

Regardless of the method you choose, it’s essential to remember that identifying your target audience is an ongoing process. As your product or service evolves, so too will the needs and desires of your customers. By staying attuned to their feedback and adapting your offerings accordingly, you can ensure that your products and services continue to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

Identifying your target audience can be a challenging task, but there are several ways to gain a better understanding of their needs and wants. Market research and surveys are among the most common methods used to identify a target audience. By asking questions about why people use certain products or services, we can gain insights into what they’re looking for in a solution. Demographic data, such as age and location, can also help us determine which groups may benefit the most from certain products or services based on their unique needs. Ultimately, a thorough understanding of our target audience allows us to create products and services that are tailored to their needs and preferences.

Wonderful! However, what do we do when we are faced with the challenge of creating a digital product that doesn’t yet exist?

As user experience researchers, this is a common hurdle that we often encounter, particularly when working with conceptual ideas. It can be challenging to accurately identify the target audience, understand their needs, and predict their choices without an existing product or qualitative data to draw from.

Fortunately, there is a solution: we use our imagination. By visualizing what the product would look like and how it would function if it were real, we can create a clear picture of the target audience and their needs. We can then apply this information to our research questions and design a user experience that meets the needs of our hypothetical audience.

In this article, I will guide you through the process of transforming an imaginary product into a real one by creating fictional personas and developing user journeys.

User personas are invaluable tools that provide a deep understanding of your target audience’s wants, needs, and behavior. They are usually created using a mix of qualitative and quantitative data obtained from existing users.

But what if you don’t have any data or even a product, to begin with? It’s a common challenge faced by startups while building prototypes and MVPs. However, you don’t have to be stuck in this situation, as you can still build data-less personas using common sense and basic assumptions about your target audience.

As a UX designer with 20 years of experience across various industries, I have found personas to be a constant necessity. In this article, I’ll walk you through my process of creating data-less personas, which can help you gain a clear understanding of your target audience even without any existing da

U.S.I.R.S

At the heart of U.S.I.R.S Personas (Users, Scenarios, Interactions, Relationships, Solutions) lies a deep understanding of what a typical user might do in various situations. To create these personas, we make informed assumptions about common scenarios – such as a user checking their email on a mobile device – and leverage our knowledge of the industry to anticipate user behavior – such as predicting their social media usage. We also take into account factors such as etiquette, customer expectations, and stakeholder experience and understanding of the need. This allows us to develop nuanced and reliable personas that accurately reflect the needs and behaviors of our target audience.

It’s not hard to envision the best possible journey and outcome if you just use your imagination to envision what you would like to happen in this case? or to imagine what a pain point may be based on what you believe would be an uncomfortable roadblock in your attempt to achieve a goal.

You can also use your imagination to visualize what it would be like if these obstacles were already eliminated or overcome. You may find that this process allows you to get clear on some of your fears, which could then help you decide what actions are best for achieving your goals.

When you can imagine these things, then it becomes easier for you to come up with ways that you can work around them or even avoid them altogether. It’s not as though we need to think about this all the time, but it does help us become more aware of potential issues and how we might deal with them before they even happen.

Remember the U.S.I.R.S!

Users, Scenario, Interactions, Relationships, Solve, now let’s set the stage.

What is the concept?

In this demonstration, I’ll be using the concept of an app that connects people looking for workout partners. Users can browse activities like hikes or 5-mile runs and request to join others’ workouts, creating a local community of fitness-minded individuals who want to stay active and build a supportive network.

U is for User.

Who do you think would benefit from using this app?

This app could be particularly helpful for people who lead busy lives and struggle to keep track of their commitments. It could also appeal to individuals who are passionate about fitness and are looking for workout partners to stay motivated.

Let’s create some fictional personas to represent the target users of this app. 

     

      • David is a 32-year-old single finance executive who loves to hike on the weekends. 

      • Laura is a 38-year-old married marketing representative who enjoys running and wants to find a local community of runners. 

      • Chris is a 26-year-old business owner who is looking for a workout partner to keep him accountable and motivated.

    With these three personas in mind, let’s move on to designing scenarios that align with their fitness goals and needs.

    S is for Scenario. 

    What happens when you combine a user, a task, and a context? You get a scenario! (UX Dad joke alert.)

    Taking a scenario-based approach to developing personas can help you catch issues and avoid pitfalls. By understanding the user, their goals, who they are, what they’re trying to do, and the context in which they’re doing it, you can better identify the tasks they need to complete.

    To create a world around these users, we need to set the stage for their interaction with the product. Ask yourself:

       

        • In what world would these individuals need or use this product?

        • What tasks are dictated by the situation?

      For example:

         

          • David just moved to town and is eager to make new friends through fitness activities.

          • Laura is a prominent figure in the community and runs a popular afternoon CrossFit group from a local warehouse.

          • Chris lives downtown and is passionate about working out, but struggles to find a group that meets when he’s not working.

        I is for interactions.

        Successful user experience heavily relies on interactions. The scenarios mentioned above subtly imply that users may turn to the app to fulfill specific needs. But what exactly are those needs? These needs can only be discovered by user interactions with the app and with other users.

        Interactions are critical for identifying user needs and determining how they can be met by the app. The nature of these interactions will vary depending on the type of product being developed.

        Some important questions to consider when designing for interactions include:

           

            • Why and how will the user interact with the product?

            • What kinds of interactions will occur? Will users interact with the app, with each other, or both?

            • How will these individuals engage with the tool?

          For example:

             

              • David, who is new to the area, is looking to make friends and connect with like-minded fitness enthusiasts.

              • Laura wants to expand her social network and attract more participants to her CrossFit classes.

              • Chris is searching for a workout group that meets outside of his business hours.

            By envisioning users and their scenarios, we can identify their pain points and develop solutions that meet their specific needs. These three individuals all share a desire for community, personal growth, and convenience, which the app can help provide.

            R is for relationships.

            Digital tools have become an integral part of our daily lives, with people forming connections with them in much the same way they do with other people. Frustration with a poor user experience can lead to raised voices on our phones while discovering a new app that enhances our favorite activities can be a cause for celebration.

            To create a successful user experience, it’s important to understand the intimate relationship users will have with your app, as well as the relationships they form with other users. Defining these relationships can help determine the features to include in your app.

            Consider the following questions:

               

                • Does your app serve a purely functional purpose, or do users connect with it on a deeper level?

                • Is your app designed for use by one person at a time?

                • Will users be able to interact with each other through the app?

                • Where and how will users access your app?

              For example, David may use the app to connect with other fitness enthusiasts, find people with similar interests, and create a profile to express his desire to make friends in the area and join events. He may discover Laura’s CrossFit program and want to join her group, where he could meet Chris.

              Meanwhile, Laura needs a way to promote her CrossFit program and find people who are interested in joining her group. She may use the app to connect with potential members and share information about her program.

              S is for Solve.

              The final step in the Persona Process is to design solutions for the user’s needs. It’s important to identify the user’s needs and then translate those needs into product features. By establishing the user’s relationship with the product, we can identify their needs and prioritize them. This makes it easier to define the product features and relate them to specific user needs.

              Let’s take a closer look: 

              Which features will help the user achieve their goals? 

              Example: 

              David 

              Profile: This feature allows David to introduce himself to other users by managing his user info, editing his profile, and choosing what information to make public or private. 

              Categories: This feature enables David to find events and profiles based on specific categories such as fitness trainers, hikers, walkathons, cross-fit sessions, and camping trips. 

              Suggested Friends: This feature allows David to connect with other users by suggesting potential friends based on his interests, and finding friends from his contact list. Community capabilities like this help users build connections and support each other in their fitness journey.

              Some Final Thoughts…

              There are different ways to ideate features for a solution, and there is no doubt that creating personas is a great step in the direction of providing a seamless experience by foreshadowing friction and avoiding any pain points users might encounter with your app. But it’s also important to keep in mind that personas are only one of several tools at your disposal.

              If you’re able to create personas with your team, it should help provide some clarity about the people you’re designing for and what they need from your product or service. However, it’s important to remember that personas are not always accurate representations of real customers—they’re often based on assumptions or generalizations about their behavior and needs.

              User-centered design is a process of designing with empathy and understanding the needs, behaviors, and motivations of your users. There are countless ways to create personas, but one of the most effective ways for new experiences is by using the USIRS method. It’s a great way to build empathy for your future users and create an accurate experience that will be able to match their needs. But even if you decide not to use it, remember that empathy is what drives great experiences. Asking yourself questions like “how would this affect me?” and “what would I find frustrating?” can help you build empathy for your users and make sure your product matches their needs.