I'm having a problem conveying the benefits of personas.

I'm working on a complex product and am trying to get my team to build/use personas.

Thing is, I keep getting rejected on the claim of "What if we get the persona wrong? What if we choose the wrong target audience for the product?" "We would rather not use persona, and aim to build a product for all users" "'Designing for everyone is designing for no one' is a cliche".

How would you explain the benefits and get buy-in?

  • I'd start off with the reasons / data why YOU think personas are a good idea rather than just taking it as read that they are. If the arguments convince you, then you have them to convince your Product Manager.
    – PhillipW
    Oct 14, 2014 at 10:58
  • I had the same problem on convincing my PM to accept this benefit. He had 15 minutes to talk, I explained Personas the way Lean UX book does and about the "one size sock" syndrome he did have. The book's name is "Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience", hope it helps you too.
    – Carbon
    Oct 14, 2014 at 13:01
  • Designing for "everyone" is designing only for yourself, or only for the majority user who is already considered the "norm" that everyone else is expected to adapt to. It encourages thinking "inside the box" by not acknowledging there even is a box.
    – beth
    Oct 14, 2014 at 19:10

6 Answers 6


This is quite common, tell your Manager that you will develop a set of personas with the help of the team. And no target audience will be missed from the set of personas.

Tell him that the procedure will be very transparent, and the most optimised design will be choosen that in the end matches your business goals and the customer's expectation at the same time.

Also, if possible then try to propose iterations with personas, these personas will iterate and develop on the user testing results. And consequently will be developed with the end user in mind.

Using persona also helps in sharing the vision behind the user research that your company might have done. I have often seen that the guy who performs the user research comes out with a huge report of data and just throws it at everyone's face. Which only gives data to everyone, and we all interpret data according to our own traits. This could often lead to the team thinking of the project differently; Which is very dangerous.

Persona will make each and everyone on your team understand what are the pains and frustrations of your users. How you can solve them, from a human point of view. It will also give your team an idea of the daily lives, lifestyle, etc of the user which is very important.

The following image sums it up:

enter image description here

Image credits: http://www.jeffgothelf.com/blog/using-personas-for-executive-alignment/#sthash.4cBLeW9C.dpbs


The crux of the matter is UX should always understand who the user is in order to design the best experience. In days past we used to cling onto personas to give us this foundation, however over the years Personas have exposed their short-comings.

In my experience a lot of the resistance in teams and business comes from Personas being too characteristic-centred and specific, rather than being behaviour and motivation-centred, which is why in our organisation we tend to rather create simple Archetypes which only briefly describe who a person is, while focusing more on how they behave and what drives the different archetypes (behaviour and motivation focus). Our Archetypes are guided by real analytics data received which show actual user engagement patterns and pain points within our current global platforms.


I would direct the powers to the Wikipedia-page Persona (user experience) and have him read the second and third sections:

Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of brand buyers and users in order to help to guide decisions about a service, product or interaction space such as features, interactions, and visual design of a website. Personas may also be used as part of a user-centered design process for designing software and are also considered a part of interaction design (IxD), having been used in industrial design and more recently for online marketing purposes.

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. For each product, more than one persona is usually created, but one persona should always be the primary focus for the design.

If he don't buy facts, I'm afraid you can't win. However, you can use personas without telling him which techniques you use to collect requirements or find flaws. Does he really care if you use Notepad or Visual Studio when you create web pages? If not, would he need to care on the use of personas or not?


When you have considered the most important "corner cases" (not "outliers") of users in your design, then you have probably also covered the whole field in between.

That should be a guideline when defining personae, and an assurance to those who (correctly) see the user base as a continuum, rather than a discrete set.

Otherwise personae can come across as a too specific (caricature) set of random samples.


Always imagine your opponent asking himself: "What's in for me?". And the answer to this simple question depends on the role a person is playing in a team.

Usually they're not aware of the actual value they can gain from the concept of personas. If you can manage to pinpoint the value of personas a specific role in your team can profit from, then the ride is much smoother. Some examples:

  • Designers are better enabled by making their own decisions - as long as they act in the interest of the persona.
  • Developers profit from a smaller amount architectural changes at a late stage since stakeholders are aligned beforehand.
  • Product managers communicate with their production teams based on the persona's user stories instead of the direct implementation of a feature that fits 'just everyone'.
  • Executives can profit from a more independently acting team that is also more motivated since they work for the actual users of the product.

At the end of the day it's more focussed work. So less money spent on implementing the wrong features or the other way round: Money is spent on the right features.


First: Chicken vs. Egg

Allay your project manager's fears about "choosing the wrong persona" by explaining that the data & market research should do that for you.

Personas reflect the target market because they should be derived from actual research data (surveys, market & competitor analysis, etc) or at least educated assumptions about who you think potential customers might be. They don't define your audience - they put a face on the stats to help you focus on narrower brackets already defined.

Even if you don't have hard data yet, somebody must have some idea what problem you're trying to solve & for whom, which can point the personas in an initial direction (if nobody can answer that basic question & you're already working on the product, bewwaaaare! :P).

Second: Once Upon a Time

Personas aren't set in stone - they exist to help you tell a story and narrow your focus from "everyone in the world" (which is untestable and unmanageable) to progressively improved results you can test and validate. They should be a living composite synthesized from multiple real input sources. Adjust their stories regularly to reflect your latest prototyping results & revised assumptions.

Maybe persona #1 "Lisa Hernandez" starts out as a single career woman who needs a product to do X, but [based on user surveys, prototyping, etc] later becomes a married teleworker who wants a product to do Y and Z. Her story is no different from a book or movie skipping around in time to reflect new circumstances.

Third: Lisa needs your help

Personas also offer a way for your team to empathize on a personal level and connect with the goals they're working toward. Solving a problem for a real (fake) face/name/person, can boost your team's motivation, creativity, and focus, instead of getting bored by anonymous data & statistics.

No Persona: "Our budget software is aimed at every student loan holder on the planet. It will let them pay their bills from their phone. Marketing says it should be gamified and social. Accounting says it needs to cost $10.99 to make a profit, but we're looking into ads as well."

With Persona: "Lisa Hernandez graduated from State U last year with $40K in debt and a job in sales at $15/hr. She wants help paying down her student loans each month, but she hates spreadsheets and would prefer a fun, convenient budgeting app. She likes challenging her friends to social games, so think of how to use those avenues to keep her motivated and using the app regularly. We'll test a paid version at $10.99 for pro users, but we're looking at an ad-supported version so it doesn't cost Lisa or her friends anything directly."

... Which project would you rather work on?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.