User Personas: why, what and how?

So, you’ve spent hours writing the most amazing article ever written about how to train for a marathon, or you’ve spent years designing and making the most amazing collection of headphones ever created and written a lengthy piece about headphone design in relation to the modern world. You’ve added funky graphics, quoted industry professionals. You’ve used every relevant keyword known to wo/man and ensured the whole blog is SEO friendly within an inch of it’s life.

You publish the article on your blog, facebook page, website, links on twitter and Instagram but nothing. A few ‘views’, maybe an ‘applause’ or two and a ‘share’ from your best mate.

You feel like you may as well get the article and throw it out into the ether to cut out the middle man.

For people to read what you’re writing about or selling, they need to be interested in what you have to say or sell. It may hurt to say it but that is NOT everyone! I used to run a fair bit, I even entered races now and again and while I watched people running the marathon, I never had any aspirations to run one myself.

So if I received an email entitled “How To Train For A Marathon”; straight in the junk folder it would go.

Before even writing that article or designing those headphones, you need to work out who you are writing it for / who you want to sell to — who is your target audience? If you work out who your target audience is, then you can save a ton of time by not trying to sell to people who are never going to buy your product or read your blog.

It’s a bit like sitting at the bus stop and chatting to everyone in the queue– it’s a nice thing to do and passes some time but in business, you need target the right people.

It sounds like common sense doesn’t it? But it’s very easy to drift off target. And when you start moving away from your original audience, it’s so easy to drift, and drift until you’re so far out to sea it’s going to take you ages to get back to dry land.

user personas

Photo by Johannes Rapprich from Pexels

But isn’t my target audience someone just like me?

Well, yes you probably are PART of your target audience — but there are lots of other people NOT like you who may want to hear your wise words or buy your product.

How do I really KNOW who would be interested in buying my product? How do I know what they like and do? How do I know what are their pain points?

You need to feel empathy with your audience in order to understand them. Harvard Business Review warns you, just putting yourself in the customer’s shoes isn’t enough. “The more empathetic managers are, the more they use their personal preferences to predict what customers want”.

So how do I begin to understand who my customers are?

You need to create some ‘user personas’.

What are User Personas?

According to “User personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer. A persona is generally based on user research and incorporates the needs, goals, and observed behaviour patterns of your target audience.”

User Personas are pretend people. They’re completely fictional because YOU make them up! You give them names, you can draw them, use photos/images from the web. They have partners, parents, homes, hobbies. They like certain drinks, they have a particular group of friends. Just like you and me. Creating personas will help you focus on the needs of your customers; they take you away from thinking about what you like. They will help you understand your users’ needs, experiences, goals and behaviours. They can help you recognise that different people have different needs, desires and budgets.

Sounds like a bit of a laugh, how many do I need?

That depends on you really — usually 3 or 4 is a good number.

So, how do I go about creating them?

First think about who you want to sell to / speak to. Then go through these steps for each persona you create:

1 Give your person a name Once you’ve done this, the rest follows more easily. Let’s call her Silvia.

2 Give her an age and demographics 26, lives in Manchester, alone, owns her own apartment in a trendy part of town.

3 What does she look like? Being able to put a face to the name will help you better understand your characters. Can you sketch your personas? If your drawing skills are as bad as mine, you could download an image to use.

4 Give her a Job title and profession: Silvia is Freelance Film Producer

5 Income Plenty of disposable income, single, no kids, good salary

6 What does she do in her free time? She doesn’t have much as she works long hours and travels a lot, all over the world, so she makes the most of it. ‘Works hard, plays hard’. Gym — mostly yoga classes, pubs, wine bars, eats out a lot (no time to cook, has lots of friends). Likes quiet time at home alone on a Sunday morning.

7 What are her Goals?: These can range from quite general goals (e.g one day to produce a film with Ridley Scott) to quite product-specific ones (e.g. having a great set of headphones to wear when travelling and at home when chilling) PLEASE NOTE THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE HAVE EVEN MENTIONED THE PRODUCT IN RELATION TO THE PERSONA!

8 What are her Fears: Specific — spiders, General — that she doesn’t spend enough time with her ageing parents.

It’s easy enough to make up a persona like this — I just created Silvia in about 10 minutes.

Once you have created your new friend — oops sorry that was a bit creepy — your persona, don’t just look at her and think ‘she would like x model of headphones’. No, you have to get into her head, live like her, shop like she would shop, use her headphones in the way she would use them. Think what Silvia would like or dislike about the headphones. Once you do this, you will see the headphones from her point of view not your own. You will see the headphones from a different angle, not with your eyes (and ears — ho ho), but with hers. You may think of things she would say, for example:

‘They’re a bit loose for my little head, I wish they were more adjustable’


‘I wish they did them in more colours, I really like wearing yellow and I’d like them to match my clothes’


‘They’re more expensive than X brand but not sure they’re better’

It’s the same process for your blog about running. Silvia would be no use to you. Although she keeps herself fit and does lots of yoga, A) she wouldn’t have time to train for a marathon and B) she doesn’t do any impact sports.

Ok, now you’ve learnt all about my user persona, have a go and create some of your own — it’s quite fun! Do ensure they’re all different so mix up ages and genders as much as you can although make sure you are creating user personas who are relevant to your brand.

Let me know how you get on and if you’re stuck, do get in touch as I may be able to help you — yes really — I would love to hear from you. Just email me on — I promise I will reply!

You can find me in these places:

Twitter: @curlyclay

Instagram: @SarahClaySocial

Facebook: @SarahClaySocial

Latest videos & articles