Increasing empathy using personas

How using personas rather than impersonal titles such as 'user' can aid the solution and create a greater level of empathy when making design and functional decisions.

Personas are fictional characters created based on research and data about real users, representing specific segments of your target audience. Using personas can significantly increase empathy in several ways, particularly in the context of design, marketing, and product development.



User Interviews

Focusing on individuals

Humanising Users

By turning these segments into fictional people with names, backgrounds, behaviours, and goals, personas make users more tangible and relatable to the design or development team. Rather than thinking of users as abstract groups or statistics, personas humanise them, fostering a deeper understanding of their needs and motivations.

Developing User-Centred Solutions

When teams use personas, they are encouraged to design solutions that directly address the needs and pain points of these fictional characters. This approach shifts the focus from creating products based solely on technical capabilities or assumptions to designing for real-world users. Teams begin to ask questions like, “How would this feature benefit Sarah, our primary persona?” This mindset encourages empathy-driven problem-solving.

Seeing from Users’ Perspectives

Personas encourage teams to consider different viewpoints and experiences. By stepping into the shoes of the personas, team members can visualise the user journey and identify potential pain points or areas for improvement. This practice helps in anticipating user reactions and preferences, leading to more user-friendly and intuitive designs.




Humanising Data

Making Data More Memorable

Data and research can be overwhelming and abstract. Personas distil complex information into memorable characters. This simplification helps team members retain key insights about their users. Instead of remembering statistics or survey results, team members remember the persona stories and attributes, making the user data more accessible and actionable.

Facilitating Communication and Alignment

Personas provide a common language and reference point for cross-functional teams. When discussing design decisions or priorities, referring to personas helps ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding who the end-users are and what they need. This alignment strengthens empathy by keeping user needs at the forefront of discussions.

UX Research

A driver for research

Encouraging User Research and Validation

Developing personas requires user research and validation. This process involves directly engaging with real users through interviews, surveys, and observations. The insights gained during this research deepen empathy by exposing team members to users’ stories, struggles, and aspirations.


In conclusion

Personas serve as powerful empathy-building tools by transforming user data into relatable stories, guiding user-centred design decisions, and fostering a deeper understanding of users’ needs and behaviours. Empathy cultivated through personas leads to a more impactful and meaningful digital experience for the actual individuals that we design for.




Ben Laine-Toner
Digital Experience Lead