Creating Personas & User Scenarios

Designing a website without a persona is like driving cross-country with no GPS. The importance of targeting a specific user cannot be overstated — you need to know them better than you know your best friend. In this resource, I will discuss creating personas for your experiences, and how to amplify that persona by adding a user scenario. In a nutshell:
  • Your persona defines WHO you are targeting.
  • Your scenario defines WHY they might be using digital experiences and channels.
  • Your customer journey map (described in another resource) will outline the details of each step.

Part 1: Personas

What is a persona?

A persona is a model of a real-world customer. Personas humanize the customers that mean the most to your organization, revealing their functional and emotional needs. Personas bring targets and customers to life by conveying their backstory and shining a light on how they view the world around them.

Why are personas important?

Personas are essential for getting crystal clear about who you are targeting and how you can help them. Whether you are a marketer, designer, strategist, or all of the above, having a persona in your arsenal is important because it allows you to create more compelling communications, and as a result, better connections with your audience.

What are the benefits of having personas?

  • Inspire: Members of the marketing and design team can generate new ideas for reaching or connecting with customers. Personas guide the team’s strategies and designs, allowing them to create more relevant marketing materials and experiences by using a persona to humanize the user.
  • Generate empathy: A persona allows for a deeper understanding of the customer, beyond functional needs. To make deeper emotional connections with users, it’s important that a business connects their values and beliefs to those of the customer.
  • Create a shared understanding: When individuals have a collective understanding of persona needs and challenges, they can better understand the opportunities the business has to meet those needs. They can work together to align resources and coordinate plans in a way that serves the customer better. Aside from the benefits within the work, personas are a great way to motivate all team members – no matter what their role – to consider how what they are doing impacts the lives of the customers.

How are personas used?

Throughout the marketing process, the persona can be used in various ways by several team members.
  • Strategy Formulation: Use personas to determine the channels and tactics you should use to reach targets, and how to help them reach their goals while achieving yours.
  • Branding and Messaging: Use the personas you create to develop an organization’s value proposition or selling proposition. Identify what your business can do to meet a customer’s needs that another cannot.
  • Creative/Design: Determine which visual elements appeal to your targets and also help reinforce your brand themes. Consider how your customer will react, and which images might offer the greatest appeal.
  • Content Strategy: When you know precisely who your customers are, you can develop a content strategy that engages them, overcomes objections, deepens connections, communicates your product value, and ultimately moves them down the path to purchasing.
  • User Scenarios: Your persona will be a critical input to determine why they would engage with your brand and what they expect from these interactions.
  • Journey Mapping/Experience Mapping: A persona determines which steps a target goes through, the channels they use during their buyer journey, and how your customer behaves across this journey.

What is included in a persona?

Each organization has its own way of approaching persona development. Here, I will show you the anatomy of my persona. I generally organize mine into five sections (or zones) that include a variety of details, which allow a team member to quickly understand who the persona is. Here is a list of what is included in each zone.
  • Zone 1: An Introduction Snapshot of the persona’s key attributes GENERAL INFORMATION Overview which includes personas: Name, Narrative, Photograph, Segment DEMOGRAPHICS/ FIRMOGRAPHICS Observable characteristics or data points that identify targets GEOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION Relevant geographic characteristics
  • Zone 2: Their Heart Details what the persona cares about the most KEY PAINS Pains describe anything that annoys your customers before, during, and after trying to get a job done or simply prevents them from getting a job done. KEY GAINS Gains describe the outcomes and benefits your customers want. EMPATHY MAP Think and feel? Hear? Say & Do? See?
  • Zone 3: Their Work DESCRIPTION Quick summary of the work that the persona must do; roles they must play KEY JOBS Jobs describe the things your customers are trying to get done in their work or in their life. Also called, “Jobs-to-be-done”
  • Zone 4: Their Values/ Lifestyle Provides more dimension about the persona’s day PSYCHOGRAPHICS Description of target’s attitudes, aspirations, values and beliefs – some conscious, some not LIFESTYLE/  BUSINESS STYLE A day-in-the-life of a customer. Description of a customer’s lifestyle, interactions, and behavior pattern
  • Zone 5: Information Preferences Describes how persona prefers to consume their content. TECHNOLOGY PROFILE Description of the type of technologies and devices a customer may use. Description of their level of technology adoption. CHANNELS List of channels that the persona may frequently use CONTENT List the content that the persona consumes
  • Zone 6: Buying Behaviors

Part 2: User Scenarios

Knowing what triggers customers to use your experience will help you take ownership of the interaction. Creating scenarios to accompany your user personas will allow you to build more realistic customer journeys. Scenarios define your user’s goals and expectations, which ensures that you never disappoint.

What is a User Scenario?

When a user interacts with an experience, they always have an end-goal in mind. User scenarios are narratives that detail the motives and methods of a customer as they perform a specific task. A scenario answers the following questions:
  • Who is the user and what are their goals?
  • Why might they be coming to your digital experience?
  • What does the user need from an experience and how will they accomplish their goal?

Why is a User Scenario Important?

Creating a user scenario helps a business focus on what is most important to users and develop a more relevant experience. Specifically, user scenarios help businesses:
  • Determine what drove users to the experience in the first place.
  • Determine what type of experience is needed at each step.
  • Identify what content, features, and functionality will appeal to the user.
  • Uncover unspoken and hidden expectations.

What is Inside of User Scenarios?

Paragraph 1: Who is the User?

To develop your backstory, you need to get a grasp of how the user thinks and acts as they complete a task. Personas contain qualitative information that helps with this section, but by definition, some of the required information may not be present in the persona itself. As you write this paragraph, try to keep it brief, using around five sentences. THOUGHT STARTER QUESTIONS
  • What is the user’s gender and age?
  • Where do they live and work?
  • What is the user’s educational background?
  • What is your subject’s income bracket?
  • What makes them unique?
  • What is important to them?

Paragraph 2: What are the User’s Goals?

Your second paragraph should describe what the user is trying to achieve when engaging in their experience. Often, you need to define a big goal and then break it down into smaller goals. Make sure to note any requirements necessary for them to be successful. Like the first paragraph, this one should also be about five sentences in length. THOUGHT STARTER QUESTIONS
  • What does the user need to achieve?
  • What outcome do they expect?
  • If applicable, what is their budget?
  • What constraints do they have in completing the goal: time frame, travel restrictions, budget, etc.

Paragraph 3: What are the User’s Expectations?

This third paragraph is the “meat” of your document. Its purpose is to describe what a user expects to get out of their experience. The trick is to fully describe the need of the customer in about seven sentences. You might find it necessary to break it into two paragraphs instead of one. THOUGHT STARTER QUESTIONS
  • Initial questions:
    • What are their underlying motivations behind those needs?
    • How does the user expect to be treated during the experience?
    • Keeping those questions in mind, you should strive to look even deeper into the mind of your user.
    • How well does the user understand the task they wish to complete?
    • Are they a first time user or an expert?
    • Does the user value personalized or a custom-tailored experience to meet their needs?
    • Does the user want a lot of detailed information to make an informed decision or is the user content with a summary?
  • What does the user value most?
    • Convenience?
    • Art or design-focused experiences?
    • Simplicity or complexity?
    • Rich media such as video tools or apps?
    • Decision-making tools (product comparison tools, calculators, etc.)?
    • Utilities?
  • How does the user think?
    • Is the user introverted or extroverted?
    • Socially active?
    • Socially minded?
    • Methodical?
    • Organized?
    • Adverse to risk?
    • A traveler or homebound?
  • Is the user:
    • Culturally literate (theater, books, etc.)?
    • A sports enthusiast?
    • Motivated by money?
    • Altruistic?
    • A foodie?

Paragraph 4: Why does the User Engage?

The final paragraph of your scenario describes why the user would choose this particular experience over that of another. It helps identify a specific type of functionality or content that may differentiate your experience from others. Keep in mind that users are not just comparing your experience to that of competing companies. They compare it to every experience they encounter in their day-to-day interactions (i.e., Amazon, Google). THOUGHT STARTER QUESTIONS
  • What brought the user to the experience?
  • Why would they choose it over others?
  • How important is this destination for them to complete their goal?

Considerations when Creating User Scenarios

User scenarios are typically written in the form of a story. They are concise and usually consist of about 4-5 paragraphs. The goal is to present the scenario on a single, succinctly written page. Here are some key points to keep in mind when writing user scenarios:
  • Use a narrative format to tell the story of the user’s experience.
  • Keep the scenario short and simple, focusing on the most important aspects of the user’s journey.
  • Use clear and concise language to convey the user’s actions, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Avoid unnecessary detail or technical jargon that could make the scenario difficult to understand.
By following these guidelines, you can create user scenarios that effectively communicate the user’s experience and help inform the design of your product or service.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are user scenarios different than use cases?

User scenarios should not be confused with use cases. Both contain similar ideas but have different applications as well as different focal points. Use cases are commonly used by software developers, technology, and testing teams to ensure that a system supports key interactions with the users. The focus of a use case is on the technical systems, as opposed to the user himself.

How are user scenarios different from personas?

A distinction must be made between user scenarios and user personas. Personas present a broader picture with a great deal of detail on the identity of the user. They discuss what jobs need to be done or which problems need to be solved. User scenarios, on the other hand, are more specific as to how the user thinks and acts; in other words, how the user goes about solving a problem or completing a job. It also highlights what a user expects as they go about completing their task. <aside> ✋🏾 Hi there! My name is Tiffany and I am a UX and Technology leader who helps large enterprises build profitable digital products and high-performing digital teams. From time to time, I share helpful resources that address common challenges on my website at </aside>

✋🏾 Hi There!

My name is Tiffany and I am a UX and Technology leader who helps large enterprises build profitable digital products and high-performing digital teams. From time to time, I share helpful resources that address common challenges right here.

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