Personas are fictional characters that reflect your target audience segments. They inspire empathy, inform design decisions, and get a team on the same page about who you are designing for.
Personas are useful as a starting point to a project to check a team's assumptions and get you on the same page.
You can sketch out rapid assumption personas in an hour or less. Research-based personas will take longer, up to a few months.
Blank persona template
Each persona should represent a segment of your audience. You can determine a segment by recognizing which clusters of your audience have similar goals and behaviors when it comes to the service or product you are designing. For example, if you are building a learning management system for a university you might have an "instructor" and "student" persona. If you are designing a study lounge you might have a "collaborative studier" and a "quiet studier" persona.
Avoid creating personas based on demographics, such as age or location. Focus instead on the audience's purpose: what are they trying to do? Why would they use your product?
Avoid having too many personas to remember. We recommend no more than 5 personas per product or service. You also might consider primary vs. secondary personas. For example, an academic library could have:
Primary personas: instructor, student, researcher
Secondary personas: employee, donor