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What policy topics are you interested in?



Personas are research-based characters that you create to understand the real experiences of people who will use your service or be affected by a policy.

On this page:

Why you should use it
What it involves
What you will get out of it
Ideal circumstances for use
References, guides and key readings

Why you should use it

Personas will help you to:

  • consider reliable and realistic representations of your key audience groups
  • understand the potential experiences and needs of people affected by a policy
  • empathise with the circumstances and goals of different groups of customers or citizens
  • enhance other methods such as journey mapping or prototyping.

What it involves

The personas represent real people with their own backgrounds, goals and values:

  • Develop descriptions of each persona’s background, motivations, and expectations.
  • Use these personas to think about the real experiences of people (for example how they are using the system, how their thinking and behaviours can affect their experience, how their personal circumstances or goals drive their choices and expectations).

Personas enrich other policy analysis methods such as journey mapping, prototyping, role play and others.

What you will get out of it

  • Analysis of user behaviours to use in system design and development
  • Understanding of how to write appropriately to reach the target audience.

Ideal circumstances for use

  • You wish to gain more insight into the range of views and goals of customers.
  • You wish to clarify and balance the different needs and aims of customers and citizens who will be impacted.


  • Personas need to be based on user research (both qualitative and quantitative). As representations of real groups of people, the personas are only as good as the research behind them.
  • The exercise needs to be taken seriously. It does not suit a humorous or whimsical approach.

References, guides and key readings

User personas – From the Interaction Design Foundation.

Building perfect personas – Design Thinking UK’s guide to building and using personas in design thinking.

Techniques and best practice for using personas – From, an initiative of the US Department of Health and Human Services.


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Last updated: 
Tuesday, 5 July 2022

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