Personas are a design-centric tool for focusing ideas and (most importantly) making decisions about customers. Whereas most marketing segmentation is top down, personas are more bottom up in the sense that they’re based on a narrative about a synthetic individual (based on real people).
The Absolute Basics
A good persona should be defined by a screener, which is a simple question that tells you whether a subject (aka real person) is relevant to your person or not. For example, if you’re interested in technicians that repair air conditioning systems, your screener might be: ‘How many air conditioning repairs have you done in the last two weeks?’ with a threshold of >5 determining whether or not the subject is valid for your persona.
I guess this is obvious, but they should have a name. I like to introduce first names to help continually humanize the persona: Andrew the Accountant or Mary the Mom, for example.
Photos help a lot. Try to avoid stock photos, but do make sure you have permission to use the photo or photos in question. Sometimes I like to use just one and sometimes I create a montage of photos.
What’s a day in the life for your persona (particularly with regard to your area of interest, be that work, recreation, family life, etc.)? What are some things that really drive them? Remember, focus on narrative and a story about an individual, something that’s specific vs. so generic that it couldn’t possibly be wrong.
This is a great way to operationalize your persona. For a fuller description, see the full tutorial (Personas Tutorial), but the basic idea is to describe the following for your persona–
Think: What do they think about your area of interest? What’s the tension between how things are now vs. how they’d like them?
See: How did they get to that ‘Think’? What people or sources of information influence them (in your area of interest)?
Feel: How do they feel about your the area in question? After doing it/experiencing it, how are they likely t0 feel?
Do: How often do they do it? How much do they spend (time and/or money)? When and why?
Day in the Life
Create a photo storyboard of their day. For this see: Day in the Life Tutorial.
For a template to get started, please see: Personas Template.
For a more extensive tutorial, please see: Personas for Design, Development, and Growth.