I created 4 Personas for an online car reseller based on focus-group and analytics data. The head of sales pointed out that there are more user groups on our website.

I know that usually 3 personas is ideal so I'm left wondering how to proceed.

  1. How do you determine the number of personas?
  2. How do you decide what users should be represented by a persona?
  • 1
    There's an important difference in the two questions. The other question asks about the number of personas to "focus my design". I take this question to be more about the total number of personas that are appropriate for a product. To me, you focus on a subset of your total research for any given design iteration. Apr 14, 2016 at 22:18

3 Answers 3


This phrase occurs again and again in UX: "It depends"

It's really dependant on the number of personality facets you need to align to and the depth you want your service to appeal to.

You don't need a Persona for each personality trait. Personality traits can be combined into a single persona.

I've worked with as few as two to as many as seven.


Just get started

Nothing is constant in the market: Your personas will change over time.

The key is to start putting personas to work in your product now, knowing that you'll have another group to address tomorrow.

As you assess interview findings, the majority groups will surface. There's always more nuance to be discovered, but don't let "paralysis by analysis" slow you down. Start working with the ones you know now and keep evaluating the other groups for future reference.

You can’t design for everyone

Assuming you follow an iterative approach to the product, then each "release" should focus on one or two personas at most. If the top three personas are defined, then you're ready to get started!

It's tempting to solve for everyone every time (especially for Sales ;-).
That will end one of two ways:

  1. Each story gets inadequate attention and no solution is really ready for release.
  2. Each story is well-developed and solves for everyone's needs.
    12–18 months from now.
    And your personas are all out of date.

Don't try to do all the things. You need to focus on one or two personas for each release or iteration. If you include multiple personas in an iteration, it should revolve around needs overlap not your design to make them all happy.

Ideal is pretend

For the record, this is a myth:

a number of 3 personas is ideal

Ideal for what? For the designer who doesn't want to think about more than three?

For a narrowly focused product with a small market, you may only have a few.
For a broader, mass-appeal product you may have a dozen or more.
Who cares?

When deciding if you have the right number, consider these points:

  1. A persona is a relevant, real-world type of person addressed by the product.
  2. Each persona has unique needs and expectations.
  3. Because of #2, existing or planned features serve each persona in a unique way.

One disclaimer on points 2 & 3: Overlapping concerns are legal, but it's the sum of the parts that makes a persona unique.

  • Thank you for this great answer. For now I tried to focus on the 4 personas I already had by adjusting them in order to fit also to the client-types mentioned by our sales department. At the end most of them already fitted the behavior of the personas we had, even if they would buy something different in the end. The solution was to explain how they would interact with the site. Instead of focusing to much on demographic facts.
    – artsheeps
    Apr 15, 2016 at 7:25

Like many things in UX, it depends on your solution and how you are creating your persona, e.g. are you researching real users or basing them on roles or job titles?

Alan Cooper's book "About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design" devotes a whole chapter to persona and the persona creation process (Chapter 5 Modelling Users: Persona and Goals). He talks about 7 steps: - Step 1: Identify behavioural variables - Step 2: Map interview subjects to behavioural variables - Step 3: Identify significant behaviour patterns - Step 4: Synthesise characteristics and relevant goals - Step 5: Check for completeness and redundancy - Step 6: Expand description of attributes and behaviours - Step 7: Designate persona types

He talks about 5 persona types, and without going into detail here, Cooper states there should be 1 primary persona type per interface for a product, but it is possible for some products (especially enterprise products) to have multiple distinct interfaces each targeted at a distinct primary persona type.

So if you want to create persona properly so that it is evidence based, Cooper's book can help you.

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