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The following is a guest post by Niraj Rajput, cofounder and Head of Engineering at Chisel Labs

Personas are a way for businesses to get a better understanding of their customers.

If you have been using personas for years without success, then it is time to reassess your process.

In today’s world of analytics and customer feedback, some widespread mistakes can lead to failure. Let’s learn more about it in this blog.

What are personas?
Why your personas aren’t working
Solution: correcting mistakes in your personas


What are personas?

Personas are a prototype of a typical customer who uses the product. The personas you create and use should be an accurate representation of your customers, not a stereotype or generalization.

Typically, the first step in creating good personas is to identify your target audience – those people who will interact with/use whatever it is that you are designing.

The next step involves understanding what they want from the product/design, as well as their goals and motivations related to using it.

These insights inform which features belong in our prototype and how they can best meet users’ needs and expectations.

It’s important to note that while some decisions can be made by looking at the data, other decisions are subjective.

It’s important to avoid letting personal biases slip into your persona creation process.


Why your personas aren’t working

We are going deep into reasons why your personas aren’t accurate enough and how to fix them.

The first and foremost reason for the failure of a persona is not having a clear understanding of who the persona is.

The second reason for failure is not realizing that personas are all about people: how they feel, think, speak and behave in certain situations.

Try to avoid generalization, because every human being out there is unique from each other in one way or another.

The third mistake is creating generic personas instead of specific ones targeted towards a product/service under development.

The fourth mistake is creating personas based on assumptions instead of real data.

You should never design a persona without having sufficient information about your target audience. Gather all necessary information before you start working, and then create a set of realistic characters.

The fifth mistake is outdated personas. Your personas need to evolve, since the world around us changes every day.

Designers may reference research from as far back as five years ago, thinking their data is still relevant today. This will result in a false understanding of a particular group, which ultimately leads to poorly designed products.

Researching and designing personas without making them personal will fail, because you’ll be targeting people you don’t know or understand.

The last mistake is forgetting why we need personas in the first place, while designing one-off user stories.


Solution: correcting mistakes in your personas

There are many solutions for businesses who want to get started with creating better customer experiences using design thinking methods. Here, we’ll take a quick look at some of these steps:

You cannot simply create ‘persona’ profiles based upon demographic data alone (e.g age and sex). Dig deeper and make sure that the persona profiles are “validated” with real users (e.g., if your product is targeted at students, don’t just create a persona profile of someone who’s studying Art History).

It’s important to understand the skillset/proficiency levels of the users as well. Otherwise, you’ll think they can do everything easily when this isn’t necessarily true.

When looking at specific scenarios within your product, e.g. ‘login’, don’t just look at how many clicks it takes. Also look at what happens once they’ve successfully or unsuccessfully completed their journey through the scenario.

The language used in personas has to represent the actual user’s language. This means there needs to be an acceptance that there are some generalizations of user types.

Personas should be used to guide design decisions, not define what your product can and can’t do. Don’t use personas as a stick with which to beat developers.

Before you start designing anything based on your personas, make sure there is a detailed consensus across the team about their purpose.

There has been research into creating more accurate personas by having real users carry out tasks while being observed using eye-tracking technology. Nielsen Norman Group’s Persona Lifecycle document offers some useful guidelines for this process too.

For example, if users were shopping online for shoes, would they appreciate an option where it shows them other sizes available? Or does it just add extra complications to the process?

This is a great UX design principle and one that should be applied across all manner of product development. How many times have you been frustrated by an app or website not working as expected because it assumes that everyone uses their mouse in exactly the same way?

Or perhaps asking for additional information results in either terrible task completion rates or a loss of sales.

The best personas are those which only include characteristics relevant to how they will use your product/service. It may seem like common sense, but people do make mistakes, so be mindful when creating your personas.

Finally, remember your personas aren’t always right, and they do need updating from time to time.

This shouldn’t result in wholesale changes but should be used as another data point for future consideration. After all, we’re still observing people using our products/services.



Personas should be used as a tool for research and design rather than designing the product around them. It can also help to make sure that everyone on your team is working together towards one goal.

The personas you create will be inaccurate if they are either too simple or overly complex. If your persona doesn’t match up with what both employees and customers think, then take some time to rethink the requirements before continuing any further into the development stages.

Additionally, overcomplicated details can lead to bad decision-making. This could result in loss of sales related to unknown data points. This might sound like common sense, but this mistake still occurs all too often.

Personas are not the customer. No one person represents an entire market segment – each person is unique in their way. They give us insight into our users’ needs and wants through research that has been collated by observing commonalities amongst groups of people instead.

This allows designers to create solutions based on these found similarities rather than generalizations about external factors such as age group, income level, etc. This might have nothing at all in common with certain target audiences.

Similarly, when creating a persona, it’s important to keep in mind that no one person has all of the qualities you have listed.

While personas and real people can have some similarities, remember that personas are made up. They aren’t meant to represent a certain customer but rather help you design for an idealized version.


Niraj Rajput

Niraj is co-founder and Head of Engineering at Chisel Labs, a premiere agile product management software company that brings together roadmapping, team alignment, and customer connection. Niraj is passionate about building scalable infrastructure and systems and he also happens to be a huge fan of Cricket!


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