UX Research and Personas


This was a large UCD project for a credit counseling service but for this portfolio example, we’ll show the set of personas we created based on our UX research. Ptype CEO Debbie Levitt was freelancing for another agency on this project. She interviewed stakeholders and various customer support reps, the closest she could get to the voice of the customer. It’s not UX without users, but some companies don’t let you speak directly to users, which is not an optimal UX practice but we always do our best.

She boiled customers, partners, and donors down to six personas. The client was amazed at how well she nailed it without speaking to any end users (which she wasn’t allowed to do due to the confidential nature of credit counseling). Images are an important part of personas and she spent significant time and care in selecting them. They are watermarked because the client was supposed to pay for them and instead opted not to purchase them.

This project had a huge moment of proud triumph. After handing in her personas, the client said, “We know these people!” They showed Debbie a video they had made of interviews with real clients. There were some of Debbie’s personas, looking physically (nearly) exactly like the stock photos Debbie had chosen to represent them. Even though the project situation was less than ideal because we couldn’t speak directly with customers, we were still able to gather, distill, analyze, and interpret the data correctly.

Debbie don’t have a specific technique or approach for this other than using what she calls the “five elements”: empathy, cognitive psychology, possible outcomes, architecture, and problem solving. Personas are typically done early in a UX project and used across teams and departments for years.

Set of Six Personas

Hopeful Helen

This persona fell into financial trouble mostly by accident. Everything just seemed to go wrong at the same time and she was caught unprepared.

Impulsive Irene

This persona fell into financial trouble by playing too loosely with her credit cards, purchasing freely on the assumption she’d pay later, but then fell behind.

Bright Future Ben

This persona has not yet messed up his finances but he connects with the credit counseling service to learn how to continue making the right decisions as he goes through new life changes.

Elderly Edna

This persona is recently widowed and never learned how to take care of her own finances. She’s confused and subject to scams often perpetrated on the elderly.

Credit Union Carrie

This persona is a partner to the credit counseling service. The credit union recommends the service to people who they see struggling or late on payments. The hope is to rescue that customer financially and also get them making payments again.

Donor Donna

This persona represents the company or individual who donates money to the credit counseling service, which was a non-profit. Donna is looking to improve her community and get some good PR along the way.