User Personas in Product Management: Complete Guide for Product Managers

Product Management
March 8, 2023
8 mins read

User personas are fictional representations of real users. They are the ones the product is built for.

In this article, we:

  • Explain what a user persona really is
  • Share the importance of user personas on product management
  • Define the six must-have components of a user persona
  • Reveal how to build user personas in just four easy steps
  • Mention the challenges you might encounter while creating user personas (with solutions)

What are user personas in product management

You can build a successful product only when you can identify your audience from within a crowd. A user persona contains all the data you will ever need to separate your audience from the rest.

Keep in mind that it is different from buyer personas which are fictional representations of the individuals/groups who purchase your product but may or may not actually use it.

User personas play a major role in product management by:

  • Helping product managers guide their decision-making process
  • Assisting the product team to understand the product vision and get on the same page
  • Improving collaboration between the internal team and external stakeholders
  • Keeping the user at the center of the product management process

Let’s take a closer look at why user personas are important for efficient product management.

Why do you need user personas

User persons help product teams understand how their users want a solution, build a personal connection, and make their process more flexible.

1. Explains to you how the user wants the solution

Here is a simple exercise: visualize your users using your product. Try to think about what they would say, do, or think while using your product.

User personas paint that picture for you which helps you deliver a better user experience with the solution. For example, if an app is used by cab drivers at night, adding a “dark mode” theme will improve the UX significantly.

Here, product teams should seek answers to questions like “when exactly is your product used?”, “how can you make its operation easier?”, etc. You can conduct surveys, interviews, etc., to gather relevant information. facilitates this by allowing you to gather user feedback from multiple sources in one place to help you understand your user fast.

Zeda User feedback tools

2. Connects you with your user

In the course of developing and perfecting your user persona, you will get to know your user on a personal level which will help you curate an exact solution. Even after you have built it, you can still soft-test your ideas by asking questions like “what would the user persona think?”, “what problem(s) does it solve for my users?”, etc.

This will make your product management process smoother from the ideation phase and also will help you determine the metrics you need to focus on. In other words, user personas help you define what success means for your product and how to measure it.

3. Makes you agile and user-centric

Agility refers to the proactiveness of the product team which enables them to adapt to changing conditions to continue to deliver a working solution for the user. Becoming user-centric means developing the product around the needs of the user rather than the company’s vision.

User personas outline the tangible problems your customers have to deal with and also tell you about how their needs (may) evolve with time. This allows you to deliver a customized solution to your users regardless of how their requirements change.

To ensure your user personas help you become agile and build user-friendly solutions, you have to constantly iterate and update your persona (more on this below).

As we mentioned earlier in this article, user personas contain data about who your users are, how they look like, what are the words they use, etc., that helps you build the right product or add the right features

Hence, you need to know about the components of a user persona to learn what data you need to collect (or questions you need to ask) to create an accurate representation of your user.

The elements of the user persona

We have explained various elements through two examples of user persona:

  1. B2B example: Adam Sandler, a 32-year-old small business entrepreneur who needs accounting software.
  2. B2C example: Melania Triumph, a 21-year-old student who is looking for a good music streaming app.

You can include these elements in your user persona template for product management to build them faster.

1. Persona Group

Persona group helps you classify your users to understand their pain points even more. Even though your product solves a specific problem in a niche, your users can still be grouped into different niches. 

For instance, if your product is a video-calling app, it can be used by parents to communicate with their children, professionals to attend business meetings, etc. Here, two persona groups could be “parents with children in college” and “professionals from companies”.

Similarly, in the B2B and B2C examples above, the persona groups can be “small business entrepreneur” and “college student”. While creating persona groups it is important to group your users based on the problem you are looking to solve. That is, it won’t make much sense to put the above personas into groups like “apartment owner” and “aspiring designer”.

2. Fictitious name

A name will give your user persona an independent identity which will bring you closer to your users as you will think of them as a person rather than as numbers on a screen. You can give any name to refer to your users, it is always better to give a name that “fits”.

For example, if your user persona is a millennial, giving it a common millennial name will help you build an accurate depiction.

In the case of the above examples, the names Adam Sandler and Melania Triumph, although arbitrary, help you make your user personas more “real”.

3. Job description/responsibilities

This element of your user persona details what your user’s typical day looks like. The job description or responsibilities will also help you find out things like their challenges/frustrations, their short-term and long-term goals, and their (average) daily routine.

For the B2B example (Adam) shared above, the responsibilities can look like this:

  • Track and record the cash inflow and outflow
  • Create and send invoices to vendors and clients
  • Send payment reminders and update records

Similarly, for Melania, even though she is a college student, the responsibilities can look like this:

  • Complete assignments for this semester on time
  • Attend classes and read the relevant study material

Here, too, you need to be mindful of including the job responsibilities that your product can help with. For instance, Adam and Melania might have other responsibilities which cannot be simplified by accounting software or music streaming apps.

4. Demographics

Demographics are social characteristics of a sample size that have distinct elements such as — age, gender, income, formal education, etc. These details complete your user persona and help you better position your product.

Let’s see how in the context of the two examples we are discussing in this article.

Adam is a 32 years old male, who earns between $50,000-$80,000 a year, and has a graduate degree in finance (or related fields). The details provided here will help you relay your brand’s message more effectively and offer attractive pricing plans to your audience.

Melania is a 21-year-old female, who earns between $12,000-$15,000 a year through stipends, and speaks Spanish. This will help product teams provide music in different languages through their app.

5. Psychographics

Psychographics refers to the psychological attributes of your users such as personality, preferences, attitudes, and hobbies. These details help you understand how your target audience thinks and approaches the problems you are trying to solve.

Understanding the psychological traits of your users will help you learn what motivates them which will allow you to craft and deliver an emotionally immersive experience to your users.

While adding these details to your user personas, it is important to remain mindful of the differences between demographics and psychographics:


In the case of Adam from our example personas, learning that he likes to work on his company’s accounting books at night might help you develop an appropriate theme for the user interface.

Similarly, learning that Melania likes smooth jazz while studying at night will help the music-streaming app owners share the right recommendations.

6. Current challenges and circumstances

Mentioning the present conditions of your users in the personas will help you make a stronger case for your product. The current challenges refer to the difficulties your users face when the right solution is not available to them.

For Adam, a current challenge could be — his present accounting tool cannot send automated payment reminders to his clients. And for Melania — the music app she currently uses doesn’t offer discounts for students.

The current circumstances are the limitations that prevent your audience from accessing the right solution. For Adam, it can be — an accounting tool that does have automation doesn’t integrate wholly with his current tech stack. For Melania, it can be — the music apps that do offer a student discount, don’t offer music in multiple languages.

Learning about your users’ current challenges and circumstances will allow you to remove roadblocks in your product’s user journey and help your users access your product’s core value quickly.

Now that you have understood the importance of user personas and what they consist of, let’s look at four steps that will help you build one from scratch.

Steps to build a user persona

1. Ask the right questions

As you might have already inferred from this article so far, building a user persona involves directly interacting with your users and asking them questions. Not just any questions, questions whose answers will help you learn more about your users, their problems, and expectations.

You can start from simple questions related to elements like age, gender, profession, etc., to in-depth questions such as:

  • What tools do you use on a daily basis?
  • What does your workflow currently look like?
  • At what time of the day you would generally use the [product]?
  • What is the outcome you are aiming for?

To develop a more personalized solution, you can ask open-ended questions like:

  • What does your ideal solution look like?
  • In which environment will you use this [product]?
  • What frustrates you about your current solution?

2. Always trust data

Every user persona in a user persona group represents the average user in that cohort. Hence, you must ensure that each detail present in the user persona is backed by data. Focusing on user data helps product teams eliminate biases and focus on actual problems.

Apart from learning about your users through surveys and interviews, you should also keep an eye on product usage metrics such as session length, most features used, etc.

However, product managers might find it difficult to consistently monitor all of their user data which comes through multiple analytics tools. solves this problem by allowing product managers to create customized dashboards to visualize data from multiple sources such as Mixpanel and Data Studio.


3. Adopt the right tools

User feedback tools, product analytics tools, business performance tools, and collaboration tools are four crucial tools product teams need to build a user persona and plan your product’s development. makes all the above tools accessible to product teams in one place to help product teams run their process efficiently. You can also create and manage documents such as business briefs, product requirement documents (PRDs), etc., collaboratively:


Product managers should help each of their team members to understand the role and operating procedures for each of the tools to make this process efficient. One way to do this is by encouraging team members to choose the tools that they think to be fit for their requirements.

4. Track and iterate your persona

Your product, the product team, company goals, users, and their requirements will always evolve. You might want to target a different niche of the audience, your users might demand a different feature, etc.

To keep up with these changes, product teams must regularly validate their user personas and continue to iterate them as necessary. You might need to add more user personas and let go of some existing ones.

Keeping your user personas updated will make sure your product team always knows who they are building a solution for. Furthermore, this will help you collaborate easily with your stakeholders.

Challenges while building a user persona

Building a user persona can be intensive as it involves being constantly in touch with users, the internal product team, and external stakeholders. The importance of this step in the SaaS product management process can make this even more stressful which can lead to mistakes.

Here are three common challenges you might encounter while creating and updating user personas for your product and how you can overcome them:

1. Creating too many user personas

If you have too many user personas it is a sign that you don’t know what your product does and/or you don’t know your target audience properly. Also, developing a product for too many users will make your development process complicated and the product undesirable.

Focus on the core functionalities of your product and try not to have more than 3-5 user personas. Before creating a new persona make sure that you have achieved product-market fit for the existing ones.

2. Letting personal bias affect your user personas

It can be tricky to keep yourself from assuming things about your users even when you are an experienced product manager. Your personal experiences with people who are similar to your users can subconsciously affect the way you approach your product management process.

A simple and effective solution here is to collaborate with your team while focusing on the data.

3. Not creating a negative persona

A negative persona is a fictitious representation of someone who does not need your product at all. Creating these will help you steer away from targeting the wrong crowd or focusing on the incorrect set of problems.

During market research and audience surveys, you will find people who might have a few things in common with your ideal audience like age, occupation, etc., but their problems are different. Mention these details explicitly in your negative personas.

Summing up

User personas are your perfect target audience. It is a tool that helps you identify, understand, and solve the needs of your users.

The six crucial elements of a typical user persona that help you delight your users are: persona group, fictitious name, job description/responsibilities, demographics, psychographics, and current challenges and circumstances.

You can build an ideal user persona by asking the right questions, trusting the user and market data, adopting the right tools, and iterating the persona as necessary.

Product managers and teams should remain cautious about the number of user personas they create, their personal biases about the target audience, and negative personas.

Building and maintaining the relevance of user personas requires product teams to be in constant touch with their users either through surveys and interviews or through product usage data and reviews, all of which can be difficult to manage. is a full-coverage product lifecycle management platform. It helps product teams with product discovery, strategy, building, and shipping in one centralized platform.

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  • What is a user persona in product management?

User persona can be defined as a fictional representation of the ideal customer that product teams use to guide product development decisions.

  • What is a user persona example?

A user persona example could be — Elon Muskett, a 28-year-old tech-savvy millennial who works remotely and values flexibility and efficiency.

  • What are the 2 types of personas?

The two types of personas are proto-personas (made with little research for quick team alignment) and qualitative personas (made with detailed market and user research).

  • What are the three core components of personas?

The three core components of personas are demographic information, behavior patterns, and user goals.

  • What are the 6 buyer personas?

The six buyer personas are the decision-maker, economic buyer, end-user, gatekeeper, influencer, and recommender.

  • What are the 3 categories of user personas in product management?

The three categories of user personas are primary (ideal users), secondary (users with slightly different requirements), and negative personas (users who don’t need your product).

  • What are the 4 personas in product management?

The four personas in product management are the buyer persona, the user persona, the influencer persona, and the recommender persona.

  • How to write user personas in PRD (product requirements document)?

Product teams can write user personas in PRD by researching and analyzing customer data, identifying common characteristics, and creating a detailed profile.

  • What are the key elements of a user persona?

The key elements of a user persona are name, age, job title, location, background, behavior patterns, user goals, pain points, and motivations.

  • What is the difference between a user persona and a user profile?

A user persona represents a fictional ideal customer while a user profile is a real individual's profile with their actual characteristics and preferences.

  • What is the purpose of user personas?

The purpose of user personas is to help product teams make data-driven decisions that align with the needs, behaviors, and goals of their target audience, resulting in a better user experience and product adoption.


Nireka Dalwadi
Product Marketer
In a constant shift to help product teams build products faster & better, and being perpetually awkward.
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