Personas 101

Jan 9, 2015

Personas are a tool organizations can use to learn more about their users. They are used to learn as much as you can about end users in order to better the product or service you provide. If you are able to think as a user during the design and development of a product or service, this will help greatly in creating something that satiates the users’ needs.

Personas are descriptions that give you an understanding of your users and how they use your product or service. Personas can take on a variety of forms depending on your organization’s needs. But, there are a few basic questions and ideas that every persona should include to ensure that the tool is useful. Below, you will find multiple examples of personas, varying from lean to more complex. By looking at these examples, you will see the various forms personas can take. Every persona answers the questions listed below:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is their background?
  • What experiences have they had?
  • What are they looking to accomplish?
  • What are some challenges they face?
  • What are some potential ways to address those challenges?

In the creation of your personas, be sure to cover these questions in order to get a complete understanding of your users.

Lean Persona

This simple persona is for Scientist Steve who is a government researcher for It has a photo, and three short lists identifying his role, work goals, and needs.

Provided by Jonathan Rubin, User Experience Program Manager at GSA, for

Complex Persona

A very detailed persona from HHS has a photo of a woman named Alcia and the user's demographics, copy summarizing their background, primary goal, frustrations and challenges, and reasons for visiting There are also colorful charts and graphs for additional info, like which devices they use, how tech-savvy they are, what features they want on the website, and a word cloud of terms.

Provided by Kathryn Messner, Program Manager at HHS

If you still have some lingering questions about personas, be sure to check out some examples and templates of personas being used in the federal government.