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Proto persona

Proto persona

A proto persona is an essential stage in the UX design process for creating a business application. It's created for every project, or at least it should be.

It helps to clarify the target audience of your product or service and show how it differs in terms of behaviors, needs, habits, and views.

Each representative of the customer segment is given a set of characteristics that allow you to talk about them as if they were a particular person: name, age (rather than age range), interest, need, behavior, etc.

Such a process usually results in several proto personas representing a different customer segment and user behavior.

Do you want to create a Proto persona?

Proto persona vs. Persona

What is the difference between a proto persona and a persona?

A proto persona is short for "prototype persona." It's just a fictional character that reflects the user's or customer base's characteristics. A proto persona helps you create a full-fledged persona.

Did You Know...

Each prototype should be tested, verified, and improved before it becomes a final product.

The same is true for a proto persona. It's only a prototype of a persona based on the assumptions and ideas of the team that creates it.

In this case, assumptions are the keyword. A proto persona that arises from assumptions should be tested.

Quantitative research and market segmentation reports verify its demographic profile and interests. Qualitative research (e.g., user interviews) verifies its psychographic profile, behaviors, and needs.

Only after testing does a persona that properly represents the customer segment emerge.

Proto persona in the UX design process of a business application

A small set of research tools and free data sources exist that can verify the team's assumptions about their customers.

This set can be used in any process of collecting requirements and designing a UX business application, website, or landing page.

Proto persona and free data sources for quick verification of assumptions:

  • Google Analytics
  • Hotjar
  • Yandex Metrica
  • Google Search Console
  • HubSpot and other CRM systems
  • Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks where you're active and can access the users' analytics panel.

Proto persona and research methods that allow you to create a persona:

  • Marketing research regarding market segmentation
  • User research
  • In-depth interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Usability tests
  • Proto persona workshop
  • Empathy map
  • Value proposition
  • Business model canvas

Advantages of personas and proto personas

Proto personas are ideal for teams that work according to lean methodology or for those who want to try them out. Proto personas enable the team to voice their assumptions about users so that everybody can know what the other team members are thinking.

Naturally, every person on a team will have a different image and assumptions about users, which may lead to discrepancies in the design process if each team member designs a product for a different type of user.

Additionally, these individual assumptions don't let the team focus on a centralized goal, so having a defined proto persona gives them direction, even if it's not the most accurate depiction of a potential user.

Finally, proto personas are a great foundation for further research and the creation of fully-formed personas.

Personas are relatively easy to create and don't require much time. The research and UX teams will have to collect data about users regardless, so it's the best opportunity to use them to create personas.

Since user research is based on proven qualitative and quantitative methods, personas are reliable tools that recreate real users' behavior, pain points, expectations, and motivations.

Furthermore, personas enable you to make informed decisions regarding the product and its features. They also enhance user targeting and marketing efforts and give employees a shared image of a user.

Disadvantages of personas and proto personas

As mentioned, proto personas aren't based on research but on team members and stakeholder assumptions. Therefore, they are highly likely not to represent your user base accurately. The inaccuracy of proto personas may also discourage the team from using personas as a whole.

One of the disadvantages of personas is that they're based on a relatively small sample. They're used to assess the characteristics of potential users quickly. Furthermore, due to a small sample, you won't be able to tell what percentage of customers is represented by a given persona.

Creating personas with a small sample size may lead to the omission of users with interesting characteristics or the overrepresentation of a customer group with uniquely different viewpoints.

A user experience designer, a researcher, or any other interested party may encounter problems convincing an organization or key stakeholders to create personas. However, the benefits of personas outweigh the potential downsides, making them invaluable tools in the software development process.

Creating personas and proto personas

Usually, proto personas are created during a specially prepared workshop involving stakeholders and your team members. It lasts for a couple of hours, and its main goal is for the participants to create a few proto personas and share them with the rest of the group. After that, a final set of proto personas emerges through discussion and collaboration.

Proto personas are often described on cards containing their basic information such as name, biography, demographic information, and attributes.

You need to conduct user research to turn a proto persona into a complete persona. To collect data about users, you need to recruit between 5 and 30 respondents to take part in interviews. These interviews will help you identify key characteristics of your target audience.

Such as:

  • Pain points
  • Expectations
  • Needs
  • Desired product features
  • Approach to workflows
  • Goals

Once you collect the data, you should properly organize them into groups.

After that, you need to analyze the information you have obtained. You should search for repeating patterns in the conducted interviews. These patterns can be specific user behavior or similar goals and expectations.

It's important to note that you're not only looking for similar answers to questions but ways of doing and perceiving things.

For example, you may find that the majority of users, when arriving on the website of a development company, first look for a page with a description of services. These will lead you to create personas based on user similarities and not differences.

Plenty of templates on the Internet can aid you with organizing information about personas and turning them into a coherent description of a potential user.

To summarize, proto personas are a great way to get to know your customers and users. They provide you with initial ideas and assumptions that can later turn into complete and detailed personas. Thanks to them, you will gather data regarding your customers' wants and needs that will enable you to adapt the product accordingly.

Proto personas don't require much resources, costs, or time. They also form a solid base for further research if the organization decides to invest in them.

Personas require more time and resources but provide a complete view of your target audience. If your team currently can't afford to create full personas, proto personas are a good start if you remember their limitations.

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