The Importance of Tying Personas to Wireframes

by on 03/22/12 at 10:43 am

Do you design wireframes without knowing who your users are? Knowing the type of user who uses your interface is important in designing a great user experience. The best way to do this is to create personas. Personas are fictional characters that are backed up by research and designed to paint a picture of your user’s needs and characteristics. Knowing these different needs and characteristics can help you create better products. A website or mobile app has thousands or millions of different users. However, most of them share similar needs and characteristics. It’s the UX designer’s task to find out what these are, and narrow down all the different users to the most common user types. Personas can help you communicate all of this to clients and stakeholders in a way that allows them to empathize with the user.

Making a Persona

To create a persona, it’s essential to do thorough research first. You can start with a survey to find out your user demographic information. Then you should do some user testing to find out how your users use your interface and what their goals are. It is important to create at least 2-3 personas that represent the most prominent user types.

It is possible to create the persona based on information from your client, analytics data, and common sense, but it is highly recommended to get some insight information from your real users. Your persona should consist of a name, profile photo, and descriptions of user needs and characteristics. You can use this persona template from Orange Bus. Or you could try something more advanced like this one from UserInsights. Since I was not completely satisfied with either of these I created my own persona style. You are free to use it in your own work. See an example below. You can also view a demo here or read about how I came up with the final design on my website.

Integrating Personas into Wireframes

The personas you create should influence you during the wireframing process. But without integrating personas into your wireframes this can be difficult. It is easy to forget about our target users and create wireframes based on our intuition only. You should always focus on the needs of your users while you design. A good way to do this is to place your personas in the left hand side of the wireframe. That would solve the problem of the distance between the persona and the computer screen. It’s a simple but powerful ideal that will make you remember your personas all the way through the wireframing process. Now you have no way to escape your personas and will remember them throughout the process. See the example below. You can also view a demo here or read about how I came up with the final design on my website.

Being constantly reminded of who your users are is a good way to create user-centered wireframes. Whenever you are at a point of a design decision look at your panel of users and really ask yourself: Do my users really want this? If the answer is yes, go ahead. If your answer is no, then you should really think about that one and rather scrap the idea. When you have completed the wireframe, run through it again looking at your personas and ask yourself the question “Does this interface work the way my users want it to work?” This will help you refine your design until you come up with one that fully satisfies your users. Doing research alone is not enough. It’s important to integrate that research into your wireframes. Tying personas and wireframes together is the best way to design so that you never forget about the person in front of the screen you’re designing for.

About Barnabas Nagy:
Barnabas is a freelance UX designer and Information Architect who is keen on making things organized, simple and pretty. His website is http://barnabasnagy.net. You can follow him on twitter @barnabasnagy.

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