Part 2: How to create a user persona

Download our free proto persona and user persona templates created by 55 Minutes!

Part 2: How to create a user persona

This article is written with insights and expert advice provided by 55 Minutes, a Potato Productions company. 55 Minutes is a human-centred design studio that provides UI UX services.

Creating a product is like constructing a building - the sturdier the base you cement it with, the more full-proof the product will be. And having a strong foundation starts with really knowing your target users.

In our previous article, we’ve explained why you need a user persona and what you need to take note of before doing it. Now, let’s explore how you can get started on the process!

When should you do it?

User personas should ideally be done at the very start of your product development phase. Before you jump in and start designing your product, you first need to know who you want your product to appeal to.

Don’t think of crafting your user personas as a one-time done and dusted activity. Neither should you be fixated on your beautifully crafted persona.

As your business and product evolve, you may introduce new features and revenue models. All these new changes call for a review in user personas as target user groups or actual user groups may change at different junctures.

Typically, you should update your user persona when these happen:

  1. In the initial stage, after conducting UX research - you may need to update your proto persona (proto persona will be explained below) to check if your results validates your assumptions
  2. After you have tested your product with target users
  3. After launching your product and getting your first customers’ feedback
  4. Before and after introducing a new feature
  5. In the later stage, when your business is growing and you are expanding your business channels
  6. When you want to do a rebrand

If you keep them updated, you will find a greater use for them than having them stagnate and get left behind as your business grows. An updated persona also helps your team stay laser focused in ensuring that your product constantly appeals to your target users regardless of new changes.

The process

Ideally, user personas are crafted based on actual user research outcomes, so that the information comes from the actual target users.

Naturally, when you are starting a business, you may find yourself lacking in resources, time or budget to conduct user research. What happens then? Does that mean you would not be able to create any personas?

In this case, you may list down as many characteristics of your ideal target users as you can in a proto-assumptive persona template (yes, assumptive, you heard it right). It is often said that persona templates should NOT be based on assumptions, but in the event that you do not have the time and bandwidth to conduct user research, you can opt for an assumptive template as your next-best option.

The purpose of the Proto Persona:

To communicate your assumptions of the target users with your team and align with one other on who your business is targeting.

The proto persona serves as a guide for the user research that you are going to conduct in the future once you acquire the resources to do so. To help you to define interview participants, your proto persona should include details such as age range, job and lifestyle. The participants you select for your user research should reassemble your proto persona as closely as possible.

Download our proto persona (crafted by 55 Minutes) here!

Note: Having a proto persona should not be a reason for you to not conduct user research. In fact, conducting user research should be your main goal, with the proto persona supplementing your preparation for it.

1. Starting with user research

The difference between a proto persona and a user persona is that the latter is derived from user research, whereas the former is based on assumptions before doing user research.

When you eventually acquire the resources needed or when your product launches and you have a customer base to tap on, you should always aim to conduct user research.

Crafting your user persona according to empirical evidence strengthens its validity in these ways:

a. It evokes deeper insights based on real users’ stories.

Although the story lines and names were created with fictional names and social backgrounds, all the elements - how they feel, what they feel is lacking, and what they do - are actually told by real target users.

b. It gives you the confidence that your team would solve the right problems addressed by real people, and not your assumptions.

As a persona is crafted from research outcomes, team members or design team would feel more confident when they come up with solutions, knowing that they are solving the real problem addressed by real people - motivations, pain points, and needs, which are based on the real world.

c. Solutions are sharpened and more specific.

As you visualise and handle a specific user’s issues by using the persona, your team is less likely to come up with vague or abstract solutions, but rather, a specific solution that solves specific pain points that are explained via the persona.

With several options of user research methods that you can choose from, find one that is most suitable for you.

Credits: Information taken from 55 Minutes’ article on deep dive into 3 user research methods, illustrated by Lynette

And if you have the budget, why not hire a UX company to conduct them for you so that you can have proper test results to carry you to the next phase?

2. Analyse the results of your user research

Once your user research is completed, you move from a proto persona to a user persona based on the research outcome. Now that you understand the need for user research, how do you actually translate the massive data you reaped from the research?

As your user research involves a few participants, it’s time to map out the results and group similarities together. Find common patterns that can inform the answers of your user persona questions.

You should take some time to read the answers of your research participants, and proceed to map findings using the affinity mapping method or thematic analysis (group the answers to understand the common motivations, needs, and pain points that were addressed by participants).

If there are differences in their answers, consider what are the factors that cause these differences. Map each participant again according to different traits and determine the number of user personas needed.

3. Filling up the user persona template

55 Minutes has created a user persona template that guides you from your user research phase to creating your user personas. Download it here!

Let’s take a look at what is needed to fill up the template and why:

Becoming a user-centric business

Knowing the reason behind each question helps you to identify what considerations you should have when you fill in the template. The process of conducting user research to the creation of your user personas may seem like a long journey, but there’s no shortcut to knowing your target users.

Put them at the heart of the business. Know what they want, what they are looking for, and what problem you can solve for them. That’s how you can make sure that your product or service adds value to them and stand out from your competitors.

Download the free templates in this article to kickstart your customer-focused journey!

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