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5 UX persona tools to help you design websites and apps that will make your users drool

5 UX persona tools to help you design websites and apps that will make your users drool

The formula for great user experience is knowing what users want and how to give it to them. If only it were as easy as they make it out to be in What Women Want. Sigh.

Worry not: a great way to stay in sync with your users is by designing user personas. Whether sketching them out on pen and paper, going off UX persona templates or using online persona tools, creating user personas helps UXers understand user needs and market demand. Mel Gibson eat your heart out.

So if you’re looking to get back in touch with your users, you’re in luck. Our post shows you how to get started with user personas. You’ll find a breakdown of our 5 favorite persona tools, plus we’ll show you why your design process can’t do without them. Let’s get started!


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What are user personas?

In UX design, a user persona is a fictional representation of a target user group of your product, website or app.

Personas have been used in marketing and advertising since the mid-1990s; since then their use has expanded rapidly. In 1998, Alan Cooper introduced personas to software development as an interaction design tool to help teams better understand their software users.

“If you’re designing a product for people. You need to get out of the building and talk to them.” Alan Cooper, the so-called ‘Father of personas’

Nowadays, UXers leverage user personas in the user research portion of UX projects to focus web and mobile experiences around user needs. Remember, UXers can only respond to user needs once they know what those needs are, so creating user personas is key to user research.

The process of creating user personas involves observing how users interact with products, gathering data related to their behavior, goals and frustrations and creating UX persona templates. UX designers can then use the data in their persona templates to design informed prototypes that visualize potential solutions to user needs.

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You can create user personas from scratch or user persona tools to take the heavy lifting out of the process. Next we’ll take look at five of the best tools for creating strong user personas in your UX process.

Top 5 persona tools for user-centered design

Persona tool #1 UXpressia

UXpressia is a customer and user journey mapping tool that allows you to design user experiences, analyze user touchpoints and share user journeys with your team online.

This tool offers over 20 tailored sections to help you define your target audience, including persona temperament and skills, browser and device preference and influencer images. The template’s layout is customizable, allowing you to highlight the sections most important to your user research.

UXpressia has a built-in name and photo generator, so you can focus on the more important aspects of your UX persona creation. The different view modes allow you to compare personas and their behavioral patterns quickly and intuitively.

Sharing your personas with colleagues is also really easy, just download each persona sheet as a PNG or PDF file and you’re good to go.

Price point? 1 free project then $24/month

Persona tool #2 MakeMyPersona

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MakeMyPersona is a web tool by Hubspot that enables users to create awesome UX personas using a step-by-step wizard. It’s designed to simplify the persona building process, as walks users through filling in each section with a series of questions based on the user group that the persona represents.

Upon completion of the form, Hubspot sends you your completed persona via email, which you can then download and edit in Microsoft Word.

The persona tool is really easy to follow, with a layout that makes persona building quick and easy. Many of the questions have helpful suggestions and tips, perfect for anyone brand-new to persona creation.

Price point? It’s free!

Persona tool #3 Xtensio

Xtensio is a flexible communications platform with which you can create and manage your UX personas. It is the bootstrapping effort of product design studio Fake Crow.

Create user and buyer personas from scratch, or find inpsiration from editable templates and examples, to help you make responsible design decisions. Choose from a variety of graphical and interactive modules to create your persona folio, such as images, scale and pie charts, forms and social channels.

Organize your personas by category and compare them with folio stats using Xtensio’s user-friendly dashboard.

Get your team involved, work together in real-time and share it with others using links.

Price point? From free forever and up to $20/month

Persona tool #4 Personapp

Personapp is a UX persona tool that helps you design lightweight, informal personas using a lean framework. What does this mean? Essentially, Personapp personas are designed to be low fidelity, a great asset for client briefs and design team kick-off meetings to keep things visual without spending too much time on the details early on.

From the get-go, this tool is pretty easy to use. Start by creating a project and creating a new persona. For each persona, you can give them a sketch-style profile avatar and define their demographics, environment, behavior, needs, skills, and goals. We also love their Help section, that goes into detail about what personas are and why designers should use them.

Then, download your persona as a PDF file, print it or share it using a link. Simple!

Price point? The alpha release is free!

Persona tool #5 Justinmind

Once you’ve defined your user personas, it’s time to start testing them out and validate your design decisions.

Justinmind is a UX design and prototyping desktop tool that helps you create interactive scenarios to visualize the user journey for your personas. By putting personas into the context of your site or app with a prototype, you can explore how your target users might interact with your interface. Is this navigation flow clear? Have you covered all possible user pathways?

Justinmind over 4000 widgets to help you prototype each screen in your interface, as well as a range of readymade screen examples if you’re after something speedy. Then, simply create user touchpoints between screens and screen elements to create working scenarios. You can even simulate these scenarios to visualize your persona interaction in real-time!

Price point? 30-day free trial and then from $19/month

Why do UXers need user personas?

So you’ve got the persona tools, what’s stopping you? There are plenty of reasons why you should include user personas in your UX design process. For one thing, personas are literally the voice of your users – as UX Booth points out.

Let’s take a look at few benefits of creating personas next.

To improve the user experience

“Personas, if used correctly, should help you cultivate empathy for the people interacting with your website or app.” Katie McKenna, Portent

Creating user personas is a sure-fire way to boost user experience. For starters, the information we get from user personas allows us to develop a deeper understanding of who our users are, thus drawing us closer to them and enabling us to craft users experience around their use cases.

Likewise, establishing user personas avoids us creating for no one, everyone or the “elastic user” as User Researcher Shlomo “Mo” Goltz puts it, and helps us separate user needs and goals from ours and our brand’s needs and goals. Remember, widening your target doesn’t improve your aim.

And don’t forget, there is usually more than one type of user who interacts with a site or app, so creating personas is an important step in understanding the different user profiles in order to cater to each of them. This is where persona tools really come in handy, saving you time and repeated work.

To create a communication strategy for the whole team

User personas don’t just help you understand the end-user. They are also a quick and inexpensive way of rallying design teams around a common goal.

The design process is where many difficult project decisions are made. When kicking off a new design project, we ask ourselves “who are we really designing for?” While John thinks our target is primarily men aged 27-35, Jane thinks women in their late 40s will be more in-tune with the product. Stop with the assumptions!

Good persona research brings clarity and focus to a project by forcing teams to identify with the target audience. In the same way, finished personas encourage teams to keep users in mind throughout the design process. As Chris Nodder on Lynda puts it, personas are a powerful communication tool, giving everyone on the team a common vocabulary for describing the users you will design.

To develop focus in the design process

Developing user personas helps fit design requirements around user-focused goals and ensures users are always the focus of your efforts. As Hannane Cherifi explains in her article on prioritizing features based on personas, gathering usage behavior data helps UXers define the weight personas have in relation to feature prioritization.

Having an insight into how much each persona is relevant to your project helps to keep features focused on project (user-centered) objectives. And when teams know exactly which features to focus on, they can prioritize them better within projects and sprints – read our post on the designer’s place in Scrum here – and avoid unrealistic or unarticulated project goals.

Using persona tools helps to speed up the user research process speedy and make sure you involve your users in all big design decisions. It’s a step you simply can’t do without. Time to get down to business!

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Emily is Marketing Content Editor at Justinmind

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