I am currently about to embark on project creating personas (they are actually an update but we're starting from scratch, as the current ones are really old). The recruitment has been completed and the stage was set to have three mini focus groups of 4-5 people. However I have been asked to consider to approach this by doing one on one interviews.

Has anybody seen any research documentation or have any opinion on the best way to tackle personas for this question? Is there any clear advantages, disadvantages with either approach. The obvious disadvantage is timing on the one on one interviews. Is there an optimum number of participants who should be considered or should the numbers match up?

I would be really interested to see what opinions the group has on this.

Thank you.

  • Are these personas for a web applications? a website? Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 13:04

2 Answers 2


What are you trying to get out of interviewing those people?
Personas should be based on qualitative and quantitative user research.

Quantitative studies (aiming at statistics, not insights): Test at least 20 users to get statistically significant numbers; tight confidence intervals require even more users.

Three groups of 4-5 people (max total of 15) might not be enough for correlated results.

the vast majority of your user research should be qualitative — that is, aimed at collecting insights to drive your design, not numbers to impress people in PowerPoint. The main argument for small tests is simply return on investment: testing costs increase with each additional study participant, yet the number of findings quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns. There's little additional benefit to running more than 5 people through the same study; ROI drops like a stone with a bigger N .

For qualitative results, 15 people will result in a lot of same answers.

You might want to consider the costs (money and time) for doing this research. For getting demographics and such you might want to consider a survey under 20+ people. For getting qualitative answers, i.e. "why do user use this service?", I would advice one-on-one interviews with 5 to 7 persons.

Focus groups are great for getting things like user needs by letting them do a card sorting exercise. But things like user needs should not be included in personas. Personas should describe who your user is and in what context (why/where) they use your service or application; not HOW they use your service or application.

That's my opinion. Hope it helps.

  • Thanks Paul that's very helpful especially the part about User needs (the How) and not getting that confused with the Who, Why and Where.
    – Tommisauce
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 23:09

Personas are based of representations, research and analytics of your target audience for your application/website/etc.

Check out Usability.gov, it's a great resource for creating Personas.

  • Hi Courtney, the question was what the communities thoughts were on focus groups vs one to one interviews regarding personas but thank you for the link, I've used that before and I found that site an invaluable source of information.
    – Tommisauce
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 23:11
  • Sorry about that @Tommisauce. I asked you a question above and will re-edit my response when answered. Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 13:14
  • No worries Courtney, I don't see your question only a statement.
    – Tommisauce
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 23:29
  • What type of products are the personas for? Will they be used to help create a website or a web application? For example, i've created personas for websites and their basic navigation structure. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 12:44
  • The personas are for a global website. I don't want to sound mysterious or clandestine but I cannot reveal what industry it is in. But that does bring up an interesting point, and this is just me thinking out loud, does the industry be it air travel, cosmetics or hotels have an effect on the way the personas are researched or handled? Or are you just considering whether they are being used to help shape a website or product?
    – Tommisauce
    Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 10:05

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