Summary of conclusions

  1. A persona is a user segment, a representation of a group of users.
  2. A good target user segment is moderately sized and moderately specific.
  3. You can evaluate and develop personas based on user segments.

I created a persona, but it doesn't help me much

Personas play a key role in user experience design. They help us understand the needs of our users and make user-centered decisions during the product and service design process. However, in many cases, when creating personas, we tend to get lost in creating fictional characters that are far removed from real users. And often, the personas we create are not very helpful.

Personas should be representative of real user populations, or user segments. When you consider your user segments when creating personas, you're more likely to discover the essential problems and needs of your target audience, and the process of defining better personas and user segments will increase the impact and value of your designs.

Persona is like a compass

What are user segments?

A user segment is a group of users categorized by homogeneous attributes. By segmenting your target user groups, you can discover common problems, needs, and strategies to address them. The methods and criteria for segmenting users can be demographic, based on user behavior, or based on survey or interview results. You don't have to follow a set method, just segment according to your context and purpose.

Once you've defined the user segments you want to target, it's effective to create one main persona and two or three sub-personas that belong to those segments. When creating personas, it's important to give them a character that doesn't deviate from the attributes of the user segment they're based on. That's why it's important for us to define a good user segment - it's like a compass.

How to determine the value of a user segment

In search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing, we use something called microniche and long-tail keyword strategies. The longer and more detailed the keyword, the lower the search volume, but the more specific the needs of the users who search for it. The main strategy is to choose long-tail keywords with low competition (number of results) and high need (number of searches).

I think this concept is very similar to the process of finding user segments in product/service design: let's say I'm designing a car air freshener. If I set my target user base to "office workers" versus "women in their 20s", I can see that the latter is a much smaller overall audience, but it's easier to come up with more specific ideas.

To get the right size and the right level of specificity, it's a good idea to iterate on user segments by breaking them down, growing them back up, and combining them with other segments. If you start to see universal characteristics of homogeneous user groups, and a few hypotheses start to emerge, you'll know you're on the right track with your segmentation.

Long-tail keyword

Keep this in mind when creating personas

When you define a user segment, you're defining a homogeneous group of users with certain common characteristics. When creating personas, you're free to create as much as you want as long as you keep those characteristics in mind.

For example, let's say I'm designing an exercise machine and my target audience is "people who lack lower body muscle and have limited experience exercising on their own." From this user segment, I could create a variety of personas, such as "a grandmother in her 70s who takes a long time to walk up and down the stairs due to her age," "a middle school student who just got out of the hospital with a broken leg and is still walking with caution," or "a 40-something department manager who is obese due to frequent drinking and lacks exercise due to a sedentary job." (Narrow the user segment if you think it's too broad.)

Personas allow you to feed back on your own user segmentation, and you can repeat the process to come up with better user segments and personas.