Personas and Scenarios


A persona is a description of a target user for a product or service. A persona summarizes the target user’s background, goals, and needs related to the product. The persona helps you better understand your target users, so you can design a solution to meet their expectations.
A persona is based on user research data collected from multiple users through observations, interviews, surveys, etc. However, the persona is presented as a description of an individual person, even though the persona actually represents a group of users with similar characteristics.
The reason for presenting the user data as an individual person is because it is easier to empathize with a description of a specific person, rather than a set of statistics summarizing an entire group.
It is important that a persona is fictional (not an actual individual) yet realistic (based on real data from actual users). Since one purpose of a persona is to develop empathy for the target users, a persona should NOT be humorous or demeaning.
There are different formats for personas, but personas are usually condensed to one-page in length and often contain information such as:
  • Profile (background information about user):
    • Photo (fictional - use stock photo)
    • Name (fictional - first name is sufficient)
    • Type of User (descriptive label or category)
    • Relevant Demographic Information that might affect how product is used or designed (might include: age, gender, occupation/role, etc.)
    • Other Relevant Background Information that might affect how product is used or designed (might include: description of physical, social, and technological environment in which product will be used; user’s proficiency with technology; special knowledge or skills; personality traits; etc.)
  • Goals and Tasks (what goals or purpose does user want to achieve when using the product, and what tasks does user need to complete with the product to meet these goals)
  • Anxieties and Motivations (what influences user’s behaviors and decisions related to adopting a possible new solution to meet the goals and perform the tasks)
  • Frustrations and Concerns (what pain points does user experience with the current situation or current solutions)
  • Needs and Expectations (what are user’s expectations related to the functionality, usability, and user experience of possible new solution)
A product or service might have many different types of users with different backgrounds, goals, and needs. Therefore, different personas could be created to model these different types of users. However, it might not be possible (or desirable) to design a solution that tries to meet the needs of every possible type of user. Often this results in a solution that doesn’t actually satisfy anyone. Instead, it is recommended to identify the primary type of user that will be your main target for designing your solution.
USER VS. STAKEHOLDER: Personas are typically created for end users – i.e., people that direct interact with the product or service. Sometimes personas are created for stakeholders. A stakeholder is anyone that is affected by (or interested in) the use or performance of the product or service. Every end user is considered a stakeholder – however, not every stakeholder is an end user. In fact, some products (e.g., robot, etc.) might not have any actual end users, but they will have stakeholders (e.g., people affected by the robot's performance, etc.).


A persona is typically combined with one or more scenarios. A scenario is a brief story that describes how and why the persona would use the product to complete a specific task in a specific context. Different scenarios could be written for different tasks or different contexts.
The purpose of a scenario is to help the design team visualize how a target user would interact with the product in real-life. This can help with determining the functions and features of the product for design requirements, as well as with developing tasks for usability testing.
  1. 1.
    Identify types of people that might use your product (or be affected by its use). These people might be direct users of the product, or they might be other stakeholders that are interested in how the product performs, data gathered by the product, etc.
  2. 2.
    As a team, develop a standardized set of interview questions that will allow your team to analyze and consolidate the user research data to create a persona:
    1. 1.
      What background information about the person (age, gender, role, experience, etc.) might affect how the product is used or designed?
    2. 2.
      What is the specific context (time, place, etc.) in which the person would use the product?
    3. 3.
      What are the goals and tasks that the person wants to achieve when using the product?
    4. 4.
      What are the person's anxieties or motivations when selecting a new product?
    5. 5.
      What are the person’s frustrations or concerns with the current situation or products?
    6. 6.
      What are the person’s needs or expectations for a new product?
  3. 3.
    Interview people outside of class that might use (or be affected by) your product. It is recommended that each team member interview at least 2 people. Be sure to record clear notes during each interview.
  4. 4.
    Compile all the team’s interview data into an organized spreadsheet. One possible format for the spreadsheet is to list the interview questions as column headers and to have each row contain the responses from a specific user.
  5. 5.
    Analyze and consolidate the team’s user research data to create a persona that represents the characteristics of a typical user (or stakeholder) for your product. The persona should also include a scenario that briefly explains how the persona would use your new product in a specific context.
Persona for Trivia App
Persona for IoT Device
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