Want to learn how to quickly build customer journey maps? Watch UXPressia's tutorial!

Arthur McCay

How to create a Persona in 9 steps – a guide with examples


In this article, we'll go through the entire process of creating a Persona. Step-by-step, we’ll be adding new sections until we reach our final destination — a production-ready, insightful Persona. You’ll be able to use it as a reference for making Personas of your own in the future!

You can use different criteria for grouping customers into Personas, but remember that the two most common ones are demographics and behavior. Demographics-based Personas work best for such cases as targeted advertising on social media, while behavior-based Personas offer you much more. They give you valuable insights into how to improve customer experience and your product or service in general.

We’ll be using UXPressia’s Personas online tool for creating our Persona based on customers (and you can follow the same steps for user- or employee-based Personas). If you’ve never tried it before, this is a great opportunity for you to learn something new in an easy and fun way. Go ahead, get a free account, and build Personas of your own while reading this guide!

Step 1: Do research


Source: chaione.com

The first thing you should take care of when creating a Persona is gathering information about your customers. It's fine to start with hypotheses if you validate them afterward. But in general, without research, goals, tasks, needs, and pains of your Persona will be about your imaginary customers, not real ones. Populating your Persona with unreliable data won’t do you any good as you won’t be able to come up with improvement ideas for people who really use your product or service.

So where to look for information about your audience? There are many sources of data and here are a few to get you started:

  • Conducting interviews with customers

Nothing beats talking to a real person. The number of interviews you need to gather the information will be different in each case. 

💡 Expert tip: Interview 5-30 people per role, each of the roles will be defined by the tasks these individuals perform. You’ll start detecting trends once you interview at least five people. And at some point, you’ll notice that you get very little or no new insights at the interviews. That means that you don’t need any more interviews.

  • Talking to customer-facing people

If, for some reason, you cannot interview customers, interview people who directly communicate with them instead. These might be customer-facing employees: sales representatives, customer support agents, customer success managers, etc. 

💡 Expert tip: Running an empathy mapping workshop with your team will help you reveal existing knowledge and get everyone on the same page.

  • Using whatever info you already got at hand

You might have some ideas about your customers. Whether you have done some research in the past, or you just know something for sure.

  • Making assumptions

If you’ve been working on a product for a while. You may have enough knowledge to make quite accurate assumptions about your customers. Just make sure to back them up with research afterward.

  • Leveraging web analytics

Web analytics tools are a goldmine of quantitative data. So take the best of them 😉 Note that they can provide you with information about how your customers act, but not about their reasoning behind these actions. You’ll still need to talk to them to find out their motivation.

  • Taking advantage of other data sources

These can be surveys, usability testing sessions, and more. Read this article about sources of data for your CJM to learn how to gather the necessary data.

Step 2: Segment your audience

It is important to keep in mind that you cannot use one Persona to represent your whole clientele. Nor can you base a Persona just on one specific customer you happened to know. It has to be a significant group of customers with similar characteristics, needs, goals, and behaviors.

When it comes to segmenting your customers into Personas, the first thing you need to do is analyze the research data you have collected. Then identify behavioral attributes common to people with the same role (e.g., project managers).

The attributes should describe what affects a person’s behavior in situations when the person:

  • is trying to complete some tasks;
  • is achieving their goals;
  • is solving their problems;
  • is interacting with your product or service.

It is important to keep in mind that a persona is a collective image of a segment of your target audience (TA). It cannot be the face of the entire TA. Nor can it be just one person. You need somewhat of a golden middle.

persona guide - attributes

When you are done with behavioral attributes, define all possible values for each of them and put these values on scales. Just like this:

persona guide - scales

💡 Expert tip: It could be a scale from 5 to 20, but having about 8-12 scales is typically enough.

Once your scales are ready, put all research participants on each scale to compare them, their behavior and identify patterns.

scales with attributes

Looking at the scales, you’ll notice that some people appear on the same or similar places on 5-9 scales. These people constitute a pattern, laying a foundation for a future Persona. 

💡 Expert tip: Make sure that every pattern you identify is logical and explainable. 

Having categorized your customers into groups, go ahead with creating Personas. 

How many Personas do you need for your project? The answer is here.

Step 3: Decide on the layout

Personas can have different layouts as they depend on your Persona’s type and purpose. Choose the sections that fit your needs from our ready-to-use set of sections or use our pre-filled templates (one of them is below).

UXPressia's persona template

Adding new sections is a breeze:

💡 Expert tips: 

  • Whenever you get stuck, check out our hints...

… and Persona cheat cards.

  • Turn your first Persona into a template to keep to the same Persona structure from the very beginning, ensuring consistency across your projects. Work with your team to develop a Persona structure that everyone is happy with, and make a copy of the Persona to use as a template for all future Personas.
persona templates

Step 4: Set demographic info

Having demographic information in Personas is critical in some cases. Lucky us, UXPressia lets you generate names and photos for Personas, so you don't have to rack your brain for a unique name or photo.

💡 Expert tips: 

  • Give your Personas meaningful names. In most cases, you can go either with a fictional First Name + Last Name ( e.g., John Patel) or with a short name for the group (e.g., Big Spender). The first option will help you develop empathy, while the other provides you an insight into personality traits.
  • When picking a photo for a Persona, avoid using staged shots or photos of famous people or team members. 

Write down the most basic things like name, photo, age, marital status, job, income, residence, and so on. You can also introduce custom values using the editor:

In Emma, you may have noticed a green stripe that says "Idealist". In UXPressia, we have this section to describe the type of personality and it's a great way to look at your Personas from a new angle.

Step 5: Describe Persona’s background

Describing the background is our next stop.

Write down everything you know about your Persona’s background.

Remember that any tiny detail may lead you to a wonderful insight. On the other hand, avoid unnecessary information that may cause cluttering and confusion. This section should serve two purposes: drive empathy and contain valuable and insight-rich information, and that’s it.

Step 6: Define Persona’s goals

Defining Persona’s goals is extremely important because it allows you to see how your goals align with the goals of your customers. Not to mention that if you can meet customers’ needs better.

We’ll say that Emma is looking for great discount offers, cheap deals, and best value products. While Cynthia wants to see only verified customer reviews and ratings and high-quality product images and videos on the website. And Thomas is interested in purchasing the latest and trending fashion products to make his own style stand out.

Step 7: Define motivations and frustrations

Finding what motivates and frustrates your customers is something you must include in Personas. Once done, it will illuminate what you can do to win their hearts and loyalty.

In Emma’s case, her pain points may be that she doesn’t want to deal with high delivery charges and taxes. She also wants to know when exactly the coupons she has are due to expire.

Speaking of her motivations, Emma would love to get early access to deals and discounts. Also, she wants to get reminders and alerts for deals and seasonal sales.

What about Cynthia and Thomas? Their motivations and frustrations are different from those of Emma. See the carousel below to compare them.

Step 8: Add other ingredients

At this point, we are pretty much done with creating a Persona. But there's still a lot of room for improvement. In UXPressia’s Personas tool, you can add loads of other sections to describe your Persona in the most detailed way possible. So add skills, touchpoints, tech that your Persona uses, quotes, etc.

There's so much fun your team can have when creating a Persona. And the benefits are endless. Start creating your own Persona with UXPressia. For free.

Step 9: Create your own Persona

Now you know how to create a Persona from scratch. So, what are you waiting for? 😉

P.S. Be sure to add our Persona creation guide videos to your YouTube playlist and watch it whenever you get stuck.

Rate this post

More posts by Arthur McCay

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

All articles are nice and useful as well as your services, it seems your tools will be my favorite, can I ask what are the differences among motivations -in personas-, and impact and deliverables – in impact mapping-.

Arthur McCay
Arthur McCay
5 years ago
Reply to  ooobe

Thank you! Excited to hear that you like UXPressia 🙂

First, impact mapping and personas are two very different techniques so it isn’t really okay to compare them.

Still, the main difference between these two is
– Motivations in personas show what makes your persona content and happy
– Impacts in impact mapping show what you want your personas (or actors) to do in order to achieve your business goal
– Finally, deliverables show how you can make your personas act to make those impacts.

An example of persona motivations would be something like “easy product search” or “clear checkout process” if we take an online store. These are the things that make your persona’s life easier and that’s what your persona looks for in products like ours.

Now, in impact mapping, we can take the same online store. Let’s say we sell donuts online. Our business goal is to sell more donuts obviously. Our persona is someone who loves donuts but he/she isn’t particularly happy about spending a lot of money on this treat. The impact here would be for this persona to buy more donuts. But what is the deliverable we could come up with to make the persona buy more without worrying about money? Offer a loyalty program like “buy 5 donuts and get 6th for free”. In this case, this would be a deliverable.

Does this make sense? 🙂

5 years ago
Reply to  Arthur McCay

That’s Amazing. Thanks a lot for replying and sharing knowledge.

4 months ago
Reply to  Arthur McCay

Hello. yes, this does make a lot of sense.

How then does opportunities/recommendations differ from deliverables in impact mapping?

Tanya Levdikova
4 months ago
Reply to  Chi

Thank you for the question, Chi. As Arthur already mentioned, impact mapping and personas are two different techniques.

When it comes to opportunities/recommendations, you can certainly have a dedicated section in your persona’s profile if you want. E.g., to list product ideas linked to a specific persona based on their motivations, frustrations, etc. But you are much more likely to find opportunities/recommendations in a dedicated customer journey map section because they are usually based on the experience flaws you discover at different stages of your persona’s journey and other insights you got when visualizing the journey. 

As for deliverables in impact maps, they are first and foremost linked to specific business goals, not customer journey stages and your persona’s experience at each of them. They show how you can make your persona(s) do something you want them to do to help you achieve your business goal. Opportunities/recommendations in a journey map focus on how to make a persona’s experience better at certain stages of their customer journey and turn this journey (entire or a part of it, depending on your map scope) into a smoother one. 

Kak Varley
Kak Varley
3 years ago

This is good post. Especially for maybe a small business that doesn’t quite understand how to create a persona.

11 months ago

Arthur, can you please explain section II in more details, especially how you arrive at a scale 5-9, when the scales in the examples used are 1-5. I would appreciate further clarification on segmenting the personas. And in the examples provided, I do not see any pattern evolving. Please advise. Thank you

Tanya Levdikova
11 months ago
Reply to  Vyas

Thanks for an interesting question, Vyas.

5-9 refers to the total number of behavioral attribute scales you should have to identify patterns. As for the values of an individual scale, we recommend having at least three values on it. In the example we used here, each scale has a value from 1 to 5. E.g., see the “What keeps the person from managing personal finance?” scale in Step 2. We covered these things in more detail in our guide, which you can download above.

9 months ago

Great article!

Katerina Kondrenko
Katerina Kondrenko
9 months ago
Reply to  Mikita

Thank you, Mikita! Have you ever created a customer persona or are you going to build one for the first time? To get even more inspiration, you can check out our Template library (https://uxpressia.com/templates), there are lots of ready-to-go personas.