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i have a question regarding user personas since we have a little argument in our company.

After researching our active users and all time visitors of our website we found out that around 90% of them are male and 10% are female, and that 75% of our audience are in the age range of 25-54 years.

So we created two personas to cover our user base, both are male, one is 29 years old and the other one is 48 years old.

Since we want to implement those personas company wide the marketing department argued that its not okay to not have a female persona, even though females are a minority of our audience, they said that this audience wont grow if we don't start taking females into account for the stuff we do.

Since its not a defined business goal to "acquire more female users/visitors" i am against creating a persona for a 10% minority.

So the question is: Do you think there should be male and female personas or should the personas display the current state of a companies audience?

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    I don't understand what a persona means for your business, and this hardly sounds like a UX question. Why does your UX need to reflex gender? – ecc Aug 7 '18 at 7:32
  • The main use-case for the personas was to give our design/ux team a general idea of who they are designing the products for and to make it more easy in meetings/discussions to find out of the developing product benefits our users/audience. Other departments like the idea of personas and want to use our personas for different use-cases too, like marketing and support. – Pectoralis Major Aug 7 '18 at 8:49
  • Might be worth amending your question title to say your looking at whether you should represent a minority group of users in your personas rather than 'male' female'. Could easily be the same scenario but for ages like in my company. – sclarke Aug 7 '18 at 12:15
  • Although mathematically true, I wouldn't really say 10% was "a minority" -- in the sense that you can ignore with impunity a fairly sizeable chunk of your audience/customer-base. Whether the gender bias is down to UI/UX, or subject/product related, I've no idea, but considering things from a female persona's perspective may answer those questions. – TripeHound Aug 7 '18 at 15:38
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You should try to cover every demographic with your Personas. Even if you think 10% are female, if you have 1 million users, 10% becomes a lot!

I would say that 2 personas are not enough. Make enough personas to cover all your user demographics.

Remember that good design is accessible and usable for everyone.

Making one or two more personas will not cost you a penny and you might end up adding value to your product.

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    Thanks for your comment. I agree that adding more personas is not a waste of resources and its not hard, what i find questionable though, is how our development process will be if we have like 5 personas for example. "This would benefit person A" "But person B will not care about this" "Person C will use this from time to time"* "Person D will never use this" etc. – Pectoralis Major Aug 7 '18 at 8:52
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    I agree that just two personas is not enough. But if gender is 9:1 maybe there are other more relavant categories where to cut the cluster. – ecc Aug 7 '18 at 11:02
  • @PectoralisMajor you'll always have these discussions about the personas but they are simply a tool to help you find out the core and most common features that you users need. Just because A wants this but B doesn't, doesn't mean the feature is not needed, just that it might not be core to the product. In early sprint stages it's useful to find out what your MVP is and personas will help you do that. – RobbyReindeer Aug 7 '18 at 11:28
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    @ecc On the contrary: with a 9:1 split, it might be hard to acquire more of the dominant category (males) because you may already be in "red queen" situation with them (you and your competitors are "running as fast as you can to stand still" and are fighting over marginal gains). On the other hand, there may (no guarantees) be a simple change that will double the appeal to female visitors. Without explicitly considering things from that persona's PoV, it's difficult to tell. – TripeHound Aug 7 '18 at 15:45
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I'm not sure that I would advocate covering every demographic with personae.

You seem to say that your company wants to expand their female user-base but that isn't a company target.

Firstly, I would examine what it is that you are building that makes it exclusively male or masculine. If you're design a product that could easily become more balanced just by tweaking the way you think about it then you may only need to be 'thinking' about your female users while you're designing. If, however, there are more substantial changes that would be needed then you need to go back to the business and ask them what their targets are so that you can take the KPIs to build your personae.

However, you could be causing more problems by building full personae in the first place. I tend to work with something I describe as a 'mindset'. A mindset might be a customer who wants to purchase a product or it might be a user who wants to find some advice. They do not contain the less useful aspects of personas such as gender, age, job, etc. They're just skeletons of things - A simple mindset might be something like: "The user is looking for Product X. They are in a hurry but are also concerned about value. They are familiar with competitor brands." You don't necessarily need any other details.

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Yes, you should develop a persona for the minority group of users, just as you need an edge case or "extreme user". I agree that 2 personas is too few - are they going to be diametrically different? Then there should be at least 2 more to describe the cases that fall in-between.

Personas don't just consist of demographics - they contain scenarios, contexts and behaviors (attitudes, motivation) and by exploring those dimensions, you'll end up with at least a handful of personas.

What is the primary use of the personas in your company? If it is for feature development, having 5 personas doesn't mean they will be pitted against each other. With more personas, you can see where the needs overlap etc. Seems like you are using the personas to create a matrix for features?

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I think the current discussion and understanding about gender fluidity might make UX designers think twice about what the validity of making design decisions based on gender. There is no question that people are used to this being a factor (and hence it becomes a factor regardless of whether it actually is a factor or not - just one of the quirks of human behaviour).

But getting back to the actual question:

Do you think there should be male and female personas or should the personas display the current state of a companies audience?

My response is that personas can be used to help illustrate the audience for the products and services of your company. To that extend, if the purpose is to illustrate the current state then there's nothing wrong with showing both male and female personas as it will reflect the proportions.

However, if the purpose of the persona is to help identify pain points of the user's experience with the product (as a summary) and help designers and developers take those issues into consideration, you may find that for your particular product there is no significant difference in the type of issues experienced by male or female users... it could be based on other factors like the age, computer literacy or something else.

The point is that the use of personas should be based on solid research (or an educated guess that you are going to validate) so that informed design and development decisions can be made. So the best way to answer this question is really with another question (or two):

  • Is there a significant difference between male and female users when it comes to the problems that have been identified?
  • Are there any anticipated issues with not addressing what is seen as a 'minority group' if there is a difference (because they might be the most valuable or costly as a user group)?

And if you can support the answers to these questions with some solid evidence then you should be able to settle the debate :)

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My answer is

Yes

because Male and female personas are important when the business context depends on who using. here the client need to grow each audience then we want to concentrate both peoples.🙂

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    Could you please elaborate your answer? – Levano Aug 7 '18 at 7:16
  • The question explicitly states that growing each audience isn't a business driver, and also that female users aren't currently an important audience. I don't think you've really answered the question that was asked here. – JonW Aug 7 '18 at 13:06

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