User Personas: Importance & Role in Product Management (2021)

Ajay Ohri


With the apparent growth in businesses and organizations, people came to the realization that making a product and testing it on the basis of a generalized user experience can no longer be a dependable process. With this growth in the client base, came the need to meet the requirements of specific customer segments and communities.

In 1983, this led Alan Cooper, a software developer, to come up with the idea of user personas by using data from informal interviews with several users. This brought him to the realization of how a specific rather than generalized user would use and interact with the interface. It provided them with specific feedback and a deeper insight into the experience. Soon user personas became extremely useful in taking into account the desires and drawbacks of brand buyers and users.

In this article let us look at:

  1. What is a User Persona?
  2. Building User Personas
  3. Importance of User Personas

1. What is a User Persona?

A persona or a user persona is an archetype or a fictional character designed to represent a customer type that might use a website, application, or product similar to the customer type that the user persona is representing. It can be explained as a perceived dummy for the users. Below are some characteristics of user personas: 

  • Merchants and vendors may use user personas along with market segmentation, a process that divides the market based on parameters such as demographic, psychographic, geographic, and behavioral criteria, where these personas are created to represent specific customer segments.
  • A user persona is the depiction of the behavior and goals of a hypothesized group of users.
  • Personas are created mostly from the information gathered from interviewers with users or customers. They are recorded in descriptions that include goals, skills, attitude, behavior with some fictional personal data to make the persona seem like a realistic character.
  • Other than websites and applications, personas are also used in the fields of sales, marketing, system design, and sales.
  • Personas provide marketers with important data that helps them improve the quality of their product such as outlooks, common behaviors, and potential objections of users matching a given user persona.

2. Building User Personas

Following are some tips for user personas :

A) Research

As with any other software or tool, there is a possibility of misusing user personas. User personas that haven’t been created after adequate research fail to check assumptions. Thorough research of the different parameters and customer types helps in creating a user persona which matches the requirement of specific communities and customer segments. With research comes the need to proactively reach out to users and communities that are less likely to engage with the product. This helps user personas be more defined and apt.

B) What should a persona consist of?

A persona should accurately portray the customer segment that you have targeted. This can be done in a various number of ways, for example, a persona created for an application answers the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What’s your main goal?
  • What’s your main barrier in achieving the objective?

    The questions above help define a persona for the group of people they are supposed to represent. Knowing who “they” are sum up a lot about their perspective, their goals help to identify what they are trying to accomplish and the barriers they face which prevent them from achieving their objectives give a good idea about what problems or issues one the persona needs to take into consideration when representing this specific customer segment.

C) How to create a User Persona?

A persona is very simple to create provided you ask the right questions and gather as much data as you can. A user persona can be created through a lot of means, below is a 4-step process that will help you start creating a user persona:

  • Make a survey: Design a survey targeted towards the specific customer segment or community that you want to build a persona for. Your survey need not be very detailed or descriptive, it just needs to help you understand your customers by asking them questions that will help you identify a key goal, a key demographic, and a key barrier or concern.
  • Circulate your survey: After you’ve set up a survey you need people to fill out your survey for you to analyze the data. This is achieved by circulating the survey into channels that are targeted towards clients and users that you wish to reach. You can do this by setting up your survey on a popular website or through social media channels.
  • Analyze the data from the survey: Now that you’ve obtained an adequate amount of information about your consumers and customer base, the goal is to identify a few personas to focus on and then you start improving the experience of these personas. After you have gathered data, you will see a clear picture of a user persona that you need to create that fits the customer base that you are serving.
  • Build your persona: Based on the data and analysis, build a user persona that defines the largest group of your targeted customer segment and identifies a key demographic, a key goal, and a key barrier to their objective. Put all of these things together and you get a user persona.

D) Common pitfalls

Personas shouldn’t be misinterpreted as other conceptual tools like, they are not “user roles”, I.e student, HR, administrator, etc. Personas are focused on behaviors and goals. Also, user personas are not “market segments”, I.e people aged 20-30 who eat cereal, personas are the users and not buyers.

3. Importance of User Personas

Ever since the emergence of personas, marketers have realized that they need to reach out to their users and communities more to fulfill the demand in the market. Personas are compelling because they put a personal face on what would be otherwise abstract data about customer segments. By focusing on the requirements of a semi-fictional persona, designers and developers may be better able to pinpoint what users in real life might need. Personas also help avoid some of the common pitfalls which are easy to fall into. The first is what Alan Cooper calls “The Elastic User”, which refers to stakeholders who may define the user according to their convenience while making product decisions. 


Personas aid the team to have a shared knowledge of their consumer base in real-time. Proposed solutions can be guided by how accurately they fit the requirements of the user personas. To sum all of this up, user personas are semi-fictional users who help a vendor design a product, website, or application that fulfills the requirement of users on who the persona is based on.

Interested to learn all about Product Management from the best minds in the industry? Check out our Product Management Course. This 6-month-long program takes place online through live instructor-led sessions. It is the only program in India that offers the ‘Bring Your Own Product (BYOP)’ feature so that learners can build their product idea into a full-blown product, and go through an entire Product Development lifecycle. Not only this, but this is the only program in India with a curriculum that conforms to the 5i Framework. Post completion, learners receive a joint certification from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore, and Jigsaw Academy. 

Also, Read

Product Vision: How to Write a Product Vision?

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