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I'm trying to refine my persona creation skills and had a question regarding user group demographics:

If I'm grouping users by goals or frustrations, at what point do I place them into different personas based off of age range or other key characteristics?

example: Say I have an app like venmo where the goal of the user is to quickly send money to loved ones.

One user is a 28 y.o. mother and the other is 60 y.o. retired grandfather but their goals or frustrations are the same, do they belong within different personas? It seems like making an average between the 2 would be a poor representation.

Thanks!

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Demographic attributes in personas are important for building empathy for the user, and in helping your teammates remember them (Nielsen Norman Group). However, they're typically not the best differentiator, as you could have two 28 y.o. mothers who belong to completely different personas. That's because they have different mental models, pain points, and motivations.

Millennial Mom Megan and Grandpa Gary might both use Venmo to send money. That's the goal, and it's shared. They might also both be frustrated with a shared pain point - maybe they don't like waiting 1-3 days for bank transactions, or having to pay for instant transfer.

However, when you look at the motivations and why they're sending money, you'll find differences. Megan does a good bit of her day-to-day spending with Venmo, because it's what her friends and vendors prepare to use. Gary, on the other hand, hates using Venmo in general - he'd still rather just use the one credit card he uses everywhere - and only uses Venmo once in a long while to send money to his grandkids for their birthdays, because that's what they prefer.

When you dig into the why, you get interesting variants. In fact, it's a good practice to name your personas after these attributes - Every Payment Elizabeth, Stingy Steve.

Another important way to distinguish personas is by their relationship to your business. Megan might be far more profitable of a customer than Gary. You might create Gary as an "anti-persona", or the kind of customer you don't want because he'll cost your business more than you earn from him. You could look at income, average lifecycle spend, future opportunities, and so on to figure this out.

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  • All great stuff here. Thank you so much!
    – JDF
    Jan 11 at 19:09
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The 28-year-old mother and the 60-year-old grandfather should have different personas despite having similar goals and frustrations. This is because their other characteristics, like technological proficiency, financial habits, and lifestyle needs (which can correlate with age), might differ significantly, influencing their interaction with the app. Therefore, while their primary goal is the same, the way they achieve it and their experience might vary, justifying separate personas.

Ultimately, the decision to differentiate personas based on age or other characteristics should be driven by the specific context and the extent to which these factors influence the users' interaction with the product or service.

For other cases you may have, I recommend you to read this paper Using cluster analysis in Persona development (Tu, Nan & Dong, Xiao & Rau, Pei-Luen & Zhang, Tao. (2010). Using cluster analysis in Persona development. 1-5. ). It's available for free at Research Gate as full text or PDF, this paper describes combining qualitative methods like observation and interview with quantitative methods such as cluster analysis to create personas. The process groups users by similarities in goals, decision-making preferences, and other characteristics like age. I also recommend to follow some of its references, they are really good.

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  • very helpful, thank you for this!
    – JDF
    Jan 11 at 19:09

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