How to create a user persona in product discovery

9 min read
May 15, 2023

Getting a product-market fit and satisfying your user’s needs is key to the success of any product.

User personas are a handy tool that’ll help you fine-tune your marketing strategy and get a product-market fit.

Well-crafted and accurate user personas can also make your product discovery process smoother and faster.

So, what exactly is a user persona? And how do you create it?

Let’s find out!

What is a user persona?

In the simplest possible terms, a user persona is a semi-fictionalized example of your ideal customer.

User personas are crucial elements of product discovery.

While the persona itself isn’t a real person, it’s based on your actual users’ information and the user and market research you’ve done in your product discovery process.

Hence, it’s semi-fictionalized – while the persona is not a real person, it should always be based on accurate and up-to-date information you’ve collected about your users.

A user persona based on guesswork will almost certainly miss the mark.

User personas usually contain these key elements:

  • Name
  • Bio
  • Demographic information
  • Motivations
  • Personality traits
  • Frustrations/pain points
  • Preferred brands and influencers
  • Preferred channels 

This is by no means an exhaustive list and you can customize your user personas based on your circumstances but these are the most common elements you’ll encounter in a typical user persona.

Crucially, they should always represent the most important characteristics of your users.

If, say, your product’s largest demographic is women in their late 20s, a user persona of a man in his late 40s will fail to accurately describe your ideal customer.

So, how do user personas work?

  • Turns the abstract concept of “user” into a person with thoughts and emotions
  • Helps you know who you are designing for
  • Represents a group of users with similar goals and characteristics
  • Helps you get to know users more closely to create better experiences

User personas take abstract concepts like “user” and dry user data and present them in a concise, easily digestible manner.

The key to a good user persona is that the information contained within is understandable at a glance to your whole discovery team.

That way, having a basic understanding of your users becomes effortless for everyone involved.

Why are user personas important in product discovery?

So, how do user personas relate to the broader product discovery process?

A common maxim to describe product discovery is that it answers the question “why are we building this product?”

Answering this question requires an understanding of your user’s needs, motivations and frustrations.

The main aim of the discovery process is to create a product that meets your users’ needs – user personas are a tool that helps your product team reach that understanding.

Frame 6419 1

We identified creating a user persona as one of the key steps in the product discovery process. 

User personas help contextualize who your users are for your designers and developers which improves your product’s user experience (UX).

And great UX is necessary because, on average, 95% of newly introduced products fail every year.

While there are a myriad of reasons for failure and such a high rate of failure can’t be explained only by poor UX, it’s certainly a major contributing factor.

Let’s frame this in a simpler way: a high rate of failure is the result of a botched product discovery process which resulted in products failing to meet user needs.

User personas are an important element of the overall discovery process and a well-crafted user persona that accurately represents your target users will help you create a user-centered product.

This, in turn, will minimize your risk of failure.

How to create a user persona

We’ve covered what user personas are and why they’re important to the success of your product discovery process.

Now we’ll go over the process of creating a user persona from start to finish.

As an example, let’s say you’re building a car-buying app.

The two personas we’ll create for this example are:

  • Kevin, 45, car dealership owner
  • Melissa, 28, office manager and working mom

Let’s dive in!

Determine their basic demographic information

The first step when creating a user persona in product discovery is user research.

This should also be the first step of your product discovery process as a whole.

The data you gather at this stage will be the foundation of not just your user persona but your entire discovery process as well.

There’s a range of methods you can use to carry out user research for your user persona:

  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • User interviews
  • Social media research
  • Field studies

All of these methods will contribute to your understanding of your target audience and market.

Don’t worry about having to create and design personas from scratch, there’s plenty of templates online you can use and customize according to your needs. 

user persona example

To begin crafting your user personas you need to collect basic demographic information about your users:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Name
  • Family
  • Job title

Once you’ve collected this information from your users, it’s time to analyze the data.

Your analysis will show you the average age of your users, proportion of users by gender and help you group your prospective users into groups with similar characteristics.

To go back to our car-buying app example, you’re likely to have two easily identifiable major groups of users – buyers and sellers.

Both groups will have different aims and needs you’ll have to satisfy, meaning you should create a persona for both groups.

 Write your persona’s story

The next step after identifying your major groups of users and analyzing their basic demographic data is describing your users in detail.

This is where you should put yourself in your users’ shoes and understand how your product might positively affect them and how you can meet their needs.

In effect, what you’re doing is writing your user’s story.

What you’re looking to do is to specify the following elements of their story:

  • Frustrations and pain points
  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Personality traits
  • A short bio

All of the above elements are crucial to devising your user personas and to your product discovery process.

Any product which doesn’t address the pain points and frustrations of its users is destined to fail.

If your user research was well-crafted, you should have no problem with identifying how your app can provide a solution to your users’ problems.

The same goes for your user’s goals and motivations i.e. what they’re looking for in an app.

product discovery

Learn more about our discovery process →

App development starts with product discovery…

Writing their story out will help everyone on your team understand exactly what your users are looking for.

Once you’ve made your user personas, make sure you keep doing research on a continuous basis and update them as necessary.

This’ll help you with feature prioritization and with any new opportunities that present themselves.

Create your user personas

Now that we’ve covered what goes into creating a user persona on a theoretical level, the next step is to exemplify it with user personas for our example car-buying app.

Let’s get back to Kevin, a 45-year old car dealership owner.

user persona

source: Xtensio

Kevin is a successful car dealer from Yonkers with over 20 years of car sales experience looking for a platform to sell his stock and increase his sales volume.

He’s frustrated by the lack of dedicated customer support on large e-commerce/classified ad websites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

He’s looking for a dedicated, reliable platform to sell his vehicles without having to juggle selling on several sites all at once.

The growth opportunities for his business through traditional channels are limited due to fierce competition so he’s looking to get an advantage by reaching more customers online.

Being driven and ambitious, he’s looking for an app that will make it convenient for car buyers to get in touch with him and will make selling online faster and easier.

Next up is Melissa, a 29 year-old office manager and working mom.

user persona

source: Xtensio

Melissa is an office manager from New Haven raising two young kids busy with balancing between work and family, leaving her with no time to visit dealerships and negotiate deals for car

She’s not knowledgeable about cars and is looking for a convenient and reliable way to purchase a new spacious, safe and reliable car.

She’s had bad experiences with car dealers in the past and wants to be assured of the seller’s credibility when purchasing a new car.

So, how should our car-buying app look like and what features should it have to satisfy both Kevin’s and Melissa’s needs?

It should be:

  • Easy and convenient to use
  • Accessible to non-experts
  • Have detailed filters to help buyers choose a car to buy
  • Be integrated with common payment systems like PayPal & Apple Pay and provide financing opportunities
  • Have distinct buyer and seller accounts
  • Have dedicated customer support for both groups
  • Have vetted sellers to cut down on poor experiences

These are just some of the elements and features we can determine are necessary to ensure its success after creating our user personas.

The next step is continuing with your discovery process, testing and adding features, and identifying new ways to meet your users’ needs.

User personas in product discovery: conclusion

To sum up, user personas are important because they act as a quick reference and guide for your product team, helping you make user-centered features when creating your app.

They’re a way of compiling the user research you’ve done in an easily digestible format which is then used to inform your decisions going forward.

And they’re a key element of the overall product discovery process.

If you’re interested in learning more about product discovery, feel free to read more about our process and get in touch with us.

Written by

Boris Plavljanić

Product Manager

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