How To Run a Personas Workshop

How we developed personas for Here and how you can run your own personas workshop

5 min readJul 16, 2017

Personas are a tool to characterise your target users to make better product decisions. The process of creating personas helps to develop empathy with the people who you intend to use your product. A workshop is a great way to encourage your stakeholders to think about user needs effectively instead of thinking about solutions first.

Before we had created the concept for Here, we had collected a lot of information and insights to better understand people going through mental health issues. We wanted to canvas the needs of these people, to better identify how we can serve them.

We developed a personas workshop to characterise our potential users, identify their pain points and opportunities using a systematic methodology. In the next steps, I’ll take you through the process so you too can create personas for your own idea or product in a workshop format.

1. Create the canvas

You’ll need to do some preparation work to identify how many key personas you want to have for your project. My advice is not more than two or three. If you only have one, that’s completely ok. We use data and findings from our user research and sometimes from another workshop to identify the key personas we want to work with.

For Here, we have two high level personas:

The thinker, representing people more inclined to internal reflection, usually with issues to take action.

The doer, representing people more inclined to action who typically avoid to stop and think about their feelings.

We’ll have more on our Here personas later.

Once you have decided the personas for the project, you’re ready to start the workshop and dig deeper.

To run the workshop, the first thing you need to do is draw the canvas for each persona you have. You can draw it on a whiteboard, using brown craft paper, poster sized post-its or whatever large sheets of paper you have.

Three main blocks of the persona canvas

The canvas has three areas:

  • Persona insight
  • Needs
  • Served by

Once you have the canvas ready, you will do the whole exercise for one of the personas and then, after you finish with that persona continue and do the exercise with the next one. And so on for each persona.

2. Define the Persona

Your persona insights area

Start the workshop by spending some time trying to understand and empathise with the persona by completing a bio. We’ll start with high level data and drill down to more specifics to complete a picture of that persona. The basic data to start with is:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Location

You can also include other data if you feel it would be relevant for your project, like technology use, social media use, socioeconomic level, budget, time available, etc.

Then, start talking about this persona’s bio as a team. This is important, so take your time. The more specific you go here, the better. Talk about the parts of her bio related to your project, but try to go a bit further.

Is your persona married? Do they have a pet? What are her hobbies? How about her personality? Favourite sport, films, food, book, colour…? Ofcourse you´re inventing all of this, but it helps to create an emotional link with your imaginary persona. You don’t need to write down everything, just make sure everyone feels like they have really met the persona before you continue on with the workshop.

Once you feel the persona has taken form in the mind of all the participants of the workshop, write down the behaviours of your persona. This time include the behaviours that relate to your project only, so try to be as specific as you can. Nothing too complicated, a simple list is more than enough.

3. Define user needs

Time to move to the next area of the canvas, defining the needs.

Give post-its to the participants and ask them to think about the needs of the persona. Spend some time brainstorming them, asking your team to write down one need in each post-it and to share it with the rest of the team. Once you have a good amount of post-its covering the wall, give 3 dot stickers to each participant and ask them to vote the most important needs of that user.

Once the voting is done, keep the needs with votes and discard the rest for the next part of the workshop.

4. Served by

Now we’re up to the last part of the persona canvas.

For each of the selected needs, spend some time brainstorming how you can serve it with your project. Again, use post-its to do this, one idea per post-it.

After spending some time ideating in one need, order the ideas from most relevant to least. Use the voting stickers if you need to, but it should be easy to decide just by having a little chat. Discard the least relevant ones. Repeat this ideation process for each of the needs.

Your personas are ready!

And you´re done! At the end you’ll have a great understanding of the persona, what needs she has and how you can serve her needs with your project. If you repeat it with all your key personas, at the end you’ll have a good list of functionalities or ideas for your project.

You can see below how our final personas for Here looked like after the workshop. A detailed explanation of our personas will come soon!

Wanna try it at home? Download the workshop template!

Personas workshop template

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