What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (2023)

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Developing an accurate picture of your customers doesn’t need to cost you large amounts of money and effort.

There’s a time and a place for specialized tools, in-depth interviews, and complex datasets; but you can also do a lot with little—andasking your customers direct questions will give you a clear idea of who they are, so you can improve your website experience for them.

User research


Louis Grenier

Last updated

18 Aug 2022

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (2)

Today, I’ll walk you through the basics of researching and building a simple user persona for your business, which will look something like this:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (3)

A simple, no-frills example of a user persona

To keep this practical, I’ll use a real-life example from Swiss-based companySmallpdf. They had a few assumptions about who their users were, but no actual data to back them up: so they set up a simple survey on their homepage, and used the answers as a launchpad to build very basic user personas and run more in-depth research. Tailoring their website and products to meet these personas’ needs increased the success rate of their tool by 75% and increasedNet Promoter Score® (NPS)by 1%.

Let me show you how they did it so you can do the same yourself:

  • What is a user persona and why does it matter?

  • What should a user persona consist of?

  • A simple user persona example

  • How to create a persona: 4 steps

  • 5 tips for creating terrific user personas

What is a user persona?

A user persona is a semi-fictional character based on your current (or ideal) customer.Personas can be created by talking to users and segmenting by various demographic andpsychographicdata to improve your product marketing.

Why we need user personas:

User personas are extremely useful to grow and improve a business: they help uncover the different ways people search for, buy, and use products, so you can focus your efforts on improving the experience for real people and use cases.

Why did Smallpdf need personas?

Smallpdfis a free, straightforward web app that makes it easy for users to edit and convert PDF files into a variety of formats:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (4)

Smallpdf’s current (Nov 2018) homepage

The tool is technically the same for everybody, but when it comes to PDF needs there are huge differences between, say, admins who need to create word documents from printed sheets of paper, and the way I might need to password-protect an ebook draft.

(Video) How To Create A User Persona (Video Guide)

Anyway: Smallpdf had very general assumptions about who their users were, and no clear associations between what someone’s profession was and what features they were using.Even though the team didnotthink of this as 'creating personas', they embarked on a research project to identifytheir main user demographics and their goals, which in turnhelped them better understand their users and improve their tools.

What should a user persona consist of?

Let’s start with some basic theory. A simple persona, like the ones Smallpdf eventually created, answers the following questions:

  • Who are you?

  • What’s your main goal?

  • What’s your main barrier to achieving this goal?

Think about it: even though they’re buying or using the same product, your users and customers have different needs and are drawn to different things. So when youask these survey questions on your website, the answers allow you to paint a clear picture of:

Who are they?

You’re looking for details like “B2C marketer who works for a large company” or “office admin who manages digital and print correspondence,” which sum up a lot about your persona’s perspective when it comes to choosing and using your product.

What are their goals?

This is so you can understand how your product/service actually fits into your users’ and customers’ lives. Why are they buying/using it? What job are they trying to get done with it, what problem are they trying to solve?

What are the barriers preventing them from achieving their goals?

Now that you know who your users and customers are and what they are trying to accomplish, there’s one more thing to find out: what is stopping them from buying your product, or using it more often/better/more expertly?

Let’s put this into the context of Smallpdf.

The 5 questions Smallpdf used to build user personas

To build their persona, Smallpdf used five questions:

  1. What are you using Smallpdf for right now?

  2. What kind of documents do you process with Smallpdf?

  3. What is your profession?

  4. Are you a Pro (paying) user?

  5. What was the last PDF-related task you struggled with?

Notice how questions 1 and 2 are about goals, questions 3 and 4 about demographics, and question 5 is about barriers and concerns.

Now, most of their users didn’t finish all five; but that was still okay because what Smallpdf learned from the thousand-some-odd replies (to the first three) gave them a starting place to spot some overarching trends and start building their first persona.

Build your user persona today 🔥

We've created a free survey template to get you started. It only takes a minute to set up!

See the User Persona survey template

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (5)

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (6)

A simple user persona example

This is an example of the simple persona Smallpdfcame up with on the back of their research:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (7)

Note that this information would have been impossible to come by simply by looking at Google Analytics or making assumptions about how people use a product. Instead they've usedwebsite feedbackto their advantage.

So, here’s a top-level run-down of how they got to it, before I go and show you exactly how you can do it yourself in the next section.

1. They set up a short on-page survey

This step was the easiest.Smallpdf could have sent long surveys to their customers, spent days interviewing them, or even hired an expensivemarket researchcompany. Instead, they used theHotjar Survey toolto create a 5-question poll that ran on their homepage for a couple of weeks, until it reached 1,000 answers:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (8)

One of the 5 survey questions Smallpdf asked their users

💡 We've created a pre-built user persona survey template that you can use to start collecting data, just like Smallpdf did.

2. They analyzed the data

When you askopen-ended questions, you receive mountains of qualitative data. That was the case for Smallpdf, who stopped the survey after getting 1,000 replies.

Now, 1,000 replies area lotif you have to go through them one by one manually. Luckily, there are tricks and shortcuts for it (I’ll show you below), but the point is that spending time analyzing the data allowed Smallpdfto come up with a clearer picture of their users. Which, in turn, meant that…

3. They drew conclusions

Thanks to the demographic question (What is your job title?), Smallpdf learned that students, teachers, designers, administrators, lawyers, medical professionals, and real estate agents made their list of most common users.

Through the goal questions (What are you using Smallpdf for right now? What kind of documents do you process with Smallpdf?), they saw how each group used the tool for largely different purposes, which they needed to address.

And with the barrier question (What’s a task you wanted to complete with Smallpdf, but couldn’t?), they now also had a clear picture of what they needed to fix and what features they could add to pre-empt user errors.

Thiswas a great launchpad for a more in-depth investigation into the needs of these particular user types; the team then used this information to launch a round of in-field research, and eventually one of their user personas broke down like this:

  • Who are they? Administrative Assistants

  • What is their main goal? Creating Word documents from a scanned, hard-copy document or a PDF where the source file was lost

    (Video) About personas and how to create them

  • What is their main barrier to achieving it? Converting a scanned PDF doc to a word file

What else did they learn about administrators?

"Administrators are asked to do the impossible on a day-to-day basis. This includes securely handling permission slips and forms from parents, recreating files whose sources have been lost, and sending out information from teachers to parents. They proofread all these documents to ensure the school is portrayed professionally. When text or dates need to be changed, they do it.”

Kristina Wagner

Interaction Designer, Smallpdf

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What happened next?

Smallpdf powered up theirPDF to Word toolwith optical character recognition technology, so their users could extract text from any PDF or image. They also added localization packages in several common languages, specifically so that administrators around the world could reproduce scanned documents accurately.

Eventually,the changes they put in place as a result of these personas increased the success rate of their tool by an impressive 75%; their NPS also increased slightly.

"With all the changes said and done, we've cut our original error rate in four, which is huge. We increased our NPS by +1%, which isn't huge, but it means that of the users who received a file, they were still slightly happier than before, even if they didn't notice that anything special happened at all.”

Kristina Wagner

Interaction Designer, Smallpdf

They also left a Hotjar widgetat the side of the page so users could freely report any annoyances or issues. This widget often functions as Smallpdf's safety check system: if they receive a lot of poor feedback, with or without explanation, they test the tool a second time, more rigorously, and reach out to users for more information.

How to create a persona: 4 steps

Now that you’ve seen the top-level summary of how Smallpdf did it, let me show you the step-by-step process you can follow to do it yourself. There are 4 steps in total:

  1. Choose questions for your survey

  2. Set up a survey on a popular page

  3. Analyze your data

  4. Build your persona

Step 1: choose 3 questions for your survey

Here are three things you need to identify to get started building a persona: a key demographic, a key goal, and a key concern or barrier.

Your first survey doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to get you closer to understanding your customers by asking them three open-ended questions:

  1. Describe yourself in one sentence, e.g. “I am a 30-year old marketer based in Dublin who enjoys writing articles about user personas.”

  2. What is your main goal for using this website/product?

  3. What, if anything, is preventing you from doing it?

Good questions will give you a sense of how your customers use your product or service, what problems are deal breakers, which features matter to them, etc.You can borrow the ones Smallpdf used and tweak them depending on your business; or you can use our user persona survey template to get started right away.

Just be sure to limit this particular survey to three questions, so your users won’t get bored and drop off before finishing.

(Video) Understanding Your Blog’s Audience & Creating Personas

Step 2: set up a survey on your most visited page

Setting up and placing a survey on your most visited page will only take a few minutes. Here is how Smallpdf did it using Hotjar Surveys (note: you cansign up to Hotjar for freeto give this whole process a try yourself).

1 - Create a new survey

Click on ‘Surveys’ in the sidebar menu, then ‘New Survey’:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (9)

2 - Name your survey

We’ll call ours ‘Homepage persona’, but you can choose whatever name you like:

3 - Set it to appear on the homepage

  • Select which devices you’ll show the survey on

  • Show the survey on your homepage by selecting the ‘On pages I specify’ option and writing your homepage URL in the dedicated space:

  • Select the percentage of visitors that will be shown this survey (pick 100% if you want to get results quicker, or a lower number if you worry that you might disrupt the experience):

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (10)

4 - Add the questions

  • For question 1 (demographic):

    • Select ‘Long text answer’ as your question type

    • Write your question in the ‘Type your question here…’ field:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (11)

  • For question 2 (goal):

    • Click ‘Add Question’

    • Select ‘Long text answer’ as the question type

    • Write your question:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (12)

  • For question 3 (barrier):

    • Click ‘Add Question’

    • Select: ‘Long text answer’ as the question type

    • Write your question:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (13)

  • Personalize the thank you message

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (14)

✏️ NOTE: If you want to match a survey response to a HotjarSession Recordingto see the exact experience the customer had, make sure to check the box labeled ‘Ask respondents to give their consent to connect their feedback to data stored about them.’

5 - Set the appearance

Set the language, position, background color (make sure to match your site’s color scheme), and theme.

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (15)

6 - Set the behavior to launch immediately after the page loads

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (16)

7 - Activate!

Set the status to ‘Active’ and you’re all set!

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (17)

Okay, but—what does the data look like?As your users start filling in the poll, all the individual answers will be visible in the Hotjar dashboard. It will look a bit like this:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (18)

This is great for keeping an eye on how things are going while the poll is active; once you’re ready to pause and analyze the results, you’ll want to export all the data in .csv or .xlsx format. And you’ll have a button to do that at the top of your dashboard 😉

Step 3: analyze the data

Your goal is to identify one or two user personas to focus on, so you can start improving their experience today. After you have collected enough answers, you will have a spreadsheet full of data to help you do that.

Analyzing data-heavy documents like this one can be daunting, so I’ve created auser persona analysis templateyou can copy and re-use to make the process faster.

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (19)

User persona analysis template

(Video) 5 Steps to Creating Customer Personas That Actually Work | Building Better Brands

Simply follow these instructions:

  • Open this article where I explain a5-step method to analyze open-ended questions

  • Use the user persona templateand go through steps 1-4 of the article above

  • Instead of analyzing the three questions individually as the article suggests, analyze them together so you can spot patterns faster

Once you’re done, you’ll have your main demographics, goals, and barriers clearly organized on the spreadsheet.

Next:start by looking at the goals and see whether there’s one that stands out, with 50% of answers or more. If that’s the case, look at the demographics associated with the goal: if you also see a pattern with 50%+ answers with the same demographic, then you have your first user persona.

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (20)

If you don’t have a clear goal or a clear demographic that stand out, consider arranging them further:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (21)

Step 4: build your persona

Based on the data you analyze, create one simple user persona that represents the largest chunk of your user base, and identifies a:

  • Key demographic

  • Key goal

  • Key concern/barrier to purchase

You can use this information to fill inthe user persona templatebelow. Again, I created a template that you can just copy and start using immediately:

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (22)


And that’s it! Go ahead and create a survey, work with the data you can gather right now, and trust that any information is better than no information.

As you grow, you will (hopefully) have the resources to conduct more in-depth research. And, however you choose to approach that research, creating these simple personas is a good first step.

5 terrific tips for creating user personas

When done properly, user personas are immensely useful to help you grow and improve your business. Here are five final tips to help you get started and create personas that work for you:

1. Don’t confuse demographic and persona

Some of the persona examples you see online paint quite vivid, clear pictures of a user demographic… and then stop right there.

A useful persona is always more than an age and a job title, because it helps you understand the motivations, fears, and concerns of your ideal customer and market.Knowing that one of your personas is in their mid-30s and shops online twice a week is useless if you don’t know what is stopping them from buying things on your website today.

2. Start small, expand after

There are hundreds of eye-catching and really in-depth persona templates out there that you can fill in. It’s tempting, but when you’re just getting started doing persona work, and/or want to get results fast, the three attributes we mentioned—a demographic, their main goal, and a major barrier stopping them—and a simple one-page template are more than enough.

3. Don’t just ‘come up’ with personas: base them on real people

It’s also tempting to just ‘come up’ with user personas based on your/your colleagues/your boss’ understanding of your market.


Proper user personas should not be based on fictional user stories your company is inventing. Avoid your own bias by asking simple questions to your real user base.

4. Talk to your users in person, if you can

Setting a simple survey like we showed you in this article is a fast/great start to do excellent persona work. If/when you feel the need to build your case further and expand on what you’ve built, nothing beats talking with a few of your real visitors and customers in person (or via video chat!).

Consider adding a question at the end of your survey asking to share their contact details if they’re happy to be contacted and talk further.

5. Keep an open mind

This is a consequence of the previous two points. You might be surprised by the answers you’re getting and tempted to steer away from them to follow your internal company narrative.

Again: don’t!

The first rule of marketing, as Mark Ritson puts it, is thatyou’re not the customer. Remember this, and let customer insights guide you.

Build your user persona today 🔥

We've created a free survey template to get you started. It only takes a minute to set up!

See the User Persona survey template

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (23)

What Are User Personas? How to Create Personas in 4 Steps | Hotjar Blog (24)

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Explore all articles


What is a user persona and how do you create a user persona? ›

A user persona is a semi-fictional character based on your current (or ideal) customer. Personas can be created by talking to users and segmenting by various demographic and psychographic data to improve your product marketing.

What are the 5 steps mentioned in creation of personas? ›

We've broken down our process for building a set of compelling user personas into 5 steps:
  • Step 1: Roughly Define Who You Will Study.
  • Step 2: Conduct Research.
  • Step 3: Identify User Groups.
  • Step 4: Draft Personas.
  • Step 5: Finalize & Design Personas.
Jan 14, 2020

What are the 3 categories of user personas? ›

3 Persona Types: Lightweight, Qualitative, and Statistical.

What are the 7 steps to create persona? ›

Here are 7 steps to creating buyer personas to help build your consumer brand.
  1. Segment your audience. ...
  2. Determine what problems your product solves. ...
  3. Customer characteristics. ...
  4. Triggers and objections. ...
  5. Talk to real customers. ...
  6. Bring your personas to life. ...
  7. Share your personas with your team.
Dec 1, 2014

What is a user persona example? ›

What is an example of a user persona? An example of an average user persona can consist of a name, occupation information, demographics, a personal story, pain points, and challenges. With these elements involved, the user persona is more likely to demonstrate a real human being accurate.

What is a user persona quizlet? ›

Persona. the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others. -based on user research. -represent user groups. - have goals, attitudes and a context.

What is the purpose of user personas? ›

The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. These representations should be based on qualitative and some quantitative user research and web analytics.

What do you mean by personas? ›

Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. Creating personas helps the designer to understand users' needs, experiences, behaviors and goals.

How do you create a new persona? ›

  1. Do your research.
  2. Analyze the data and identify your personas.
  3. Find a persona tool or template.
  4. Make them human.
  5. Write your personas.
  6. Refine.
  7. Make them pretty.
  8. Incorporate them into your processes.

How do you explain a persona? ›

What does persona mean? A persona is the image or personality that a person presents in public or in a specific setting—as opposed to their true self. The word is especially used in the phrase public persona, referring to the personality that a person presents in public and that they are known for by most people.

What is user persona in UX? ›

A UX persona is a fictional character which represents your target users. Personas are an extremely valuable UX tool, allowing you to better understand your target audience and make design decisions accordingly.

What are persona types? ›

Persona types are types of people used when creating a website or application to understand how users will utilize the technology and how to best serve their needs. Persona types are usually fictional people who fit the criteria for what types of people the company feels will use their software or site.

How many different personas are there? ›

All 192 Personas listed below can be fused through a normal fusion or found in a Palace/Mementos unless they are part of an advanced fusion/are unlocked upon maxing out a Confidant. Unlocking a Persona via maxing out a Confidant only allows you to fuse them through Advanced or Normal fusion.

What distinguished the four personas? ›

There are many human characteristics and temperaments, all of which can be divided (for our purposes) into four main categories: logical, caring, aggressive, and implusive. Each temperament requires careful consideration of the copy structure, tone and general lingo.

What is persona in design process? ›

What is a persona? A persona is an archetype of a user that helps designers and developers empathize by understanding their users' business and personal contexts. By basing personas on user research, teams can avoid the pitfalls of designing for anecdotal, "fake," or extreme users.

What is a persona strategy? ›

Personas are typically defined as archetypal users that represent the needs of larger groups of customers, in terms of their goals and personal characteristics. They act as 'stand-ins' for real customers and help guide decisions about product functionality and design, positioning and messaging and overall Marketing.

What is the difference between a user and a persona? ›

Buyer personas aren't necessarily users, but they can be. User personas focus on details such as ease of use. Buyer personas are more interested in higher-level goals. Keep in mind that a buyer persona may be a team of decision-makers with different goals and expectations.

What makes a good persona? ›

Another kind-of-obvious-but-often-forgotten trait - good personas help you understand the customer. Your personas must describe customers the best way possible. They cannot be just made up stories with faces and names. They must reflect every tiny detail about the target group they represent.

How do you identify personas? ›

With this in mind, here's how you can go about identifying and speaking to your customer personas.
  1. Identify Your Target Customer.
  2. Create Your Customer Personas.
  3. Choose Your Marketing Channel.
  4. Craft Your Message.
  5. Constantly Refine Your Customer Personas.
  6. Now, more than ever, you need to know who your customers are.
Mar 21, 2018

What is the best persona to start with? ›

Persona 5 is a fantastic starting point for newcomers, and like the other mainline titles in this second phase, no knowledge of previous games is required. It does a fantastic job in bringing the series to a new generation of consoles and RPGamers.

How many user personas do you need? ›

There isn't really a magic number a brand or project should follow, but it is generally recognized that 3-8 personas are sufficient in most cases. Many people, including design professionals, are often confused about the differences between customer segmentations and personas.

Why create personas? ›

Creating user personas helps you keep your whole team aligned with the design process. Personas are the go-to documents which ensure that every design decision is aligned with the intended user. They also serve as a reminder to designers that they should stick with their target audience.

What are examples of personas? ›

In the business world, a persona is about perception. For instance, if a businessman wants others to think that he is very powerful and successful, he might drive a fancy car, buy a big house, wear expensive clothing, and talk down to people that he thinks are below him on the social ladder.

How do you classify persona? ›

Personas can be classified into 2 types in general: Marketing Persona and Design Persona . 1. Marketing Personas are typical characters of the customers of a product or a company, they have similarities in buying preference, social relations, mode of consumption and ages.

What are elements of a persona? ›

Elements of a Persona

Fictional name. Job titles and major responsibilities. Demographics such as age, education, ethnicity, and family status. The goals and tasks they are trying to complete using the site.

What are persona behaviors? ›

Behavioural personas primarily describe target audiences that are grouped by behaviours rather than demographic traits. In this context, a persona represents a group of consumers rather than a single entity with similar ways of thinking and behavior in relation to a specific service.


1. 10 Steps for Creating Buyer Personas - Speak to Your Target Audience
2. Works in Progress Webinar: Better design -- tools for creating user personas
(OCLC Research)
3. Five Steps To Creating Personas For Your Ideal Client
(Beacon Marketing)
4. Getting started with user personas
(Easy Agile)
5. Pro Tips for Building Personas and Journey Maps
(Progress Sitefinity)
6. Product Marketing 101: User Personas (by an Ex-Google PMM)
(Henry Wang)
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