Persona for a startup that hasn't created a product yet!

Hi everyone. First of all, I need to say I am fresh UX/UI designer, landed a job at a tiny startup that is in the process of creating a product. Doesn’t have one yet. My task is to create the website and then work on the UX of the tool. I wanted to create a persona to know who I am designing both things for, but focusing more on the website as for now. And I’m a bit stuck. I don’t know the audience (not in details). How do I find it out? My team seems not to know either, they’re developers and they do not really care. My boss thinks I am here to know that (not like make research and learn but to actually know on the spot).

Where do I start this research?

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When you say your employer “hasn’t created a product yet,” do you mean that they have a design but just haven’t created a physical version of what they intend to sell?

If so, your best bet is start with the business stakeholders. This likely isn’t your boss or developers, but rather the business folk who are designing and developing the product. Likely targets include:

  • The founder/CEO
  • Marketing coordinator
  • Public Relations Manager
  • Media Relations Manager
  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Any other non-development business partner with insight into the target audience.

The problem with a startup is that, while you may have some of these roles on your team, you very likely don’t have all them. This is going to make your initial conversations a little wonky, but not impossible.

Whatever you do, it’s imperative that you expand your horizons beyond the development team and work with the business partners.

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I guess your question is how to find out your audience?

I’m sorry but maybe you are unable to find the average customer.What you need to focus on is typical customers rather than average users. A persona is a comprehensive image of your real user, a typical representation of your ideal customer not the real person.

How can you build a persona?

You may pay attention to another term: customer segmentation

They are not the same thing, just have common features. Customer segmentation is more applied in market research. And it generally based on demographic statistics like gender, age, occupation, and income as well as consumer psychology. It strives to analyze the behavior when customer buying a product. While persona focuses more on the goal, behavior, and viewpoint of a customer.

Besides, you can check some User Persona Templates, and see what is a good one.
18 Free Excellent User Persona Templates


@dougcollins dougcollins, yes, they have a plan and are devloping it but the MVP has not been finished yet.
As for the stakeholders, these will be my boss, the System Architect and four developers I work with in the office. That’s the whole company :slight_smile: And as I said, the Boxx expects me to know, the developers do not care, the Architect will make a little effort to help me but he has no idea what I’m doing :slight_smile:

@tristaljing - I know how to build a person once I have all the research, I also know how to make research when I have the resources to do so. I just feel a bit lost in my environment. There is no time, money, or other resources for a proper persona. I suggested to do the proto-persona but I literally have no-one to work with me. We did an exercise at the company (with the developers) but they acted a bit like in kindergarten, and believe me, I tried, oh I tried so hard to explain the importance of this.

I am not even sure if my team should be the ones I should be asking those questions?

@mag_sobieszuk I understand your situation, sometimes developers care less about all kinds of researches. with limitation of time and money and support, it’s really hard. Have you tried questionnaire or face-to-face interviews, or something like that? I think this may cost less.

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I hate to a be a downer, but this might not end well for you.

There are all sorts of red flags here. Your company has no…

…idea who their customers might be.
…budget to research the market.
…willingness to research the market.

This has all the hallmarks of a startup that is set to fail.

What’s more, all of the pieces you need to make any sort of progress on your assignment are not available. The owner is not willing to help you, you have no data to work off of, and you have no ability to interview customers-- even if you knew who they might be.

It’s easy to look at things from an armchair and say “get out now.” From a practical perspective, it’s much harder to take that advice. This is why I never make that suggestion lightly (in fact, I’ve never made it to anyone in this community.)

Get out of this company as quickly as possible, and move on to a new employer.


I think Doug’s reticence is really valid here (thought I lack the experience to really validate it).

What I would be concerned with, too, is that it sounds like there’s been no competitor analysis. If you don’t know what the market is and what’s currently being done, how do you develop a product to meet the need? The need hasn’t been defined, so I would be really, really worried about someone thinking they have a solution if only they could find a problem that fits it.


@dougcollins Oh yes, I am in a pretty pickle but you need to also understand why I took this job. I’m a junior, with not a lot of previous commercial experience, this is my first full time UX job. Where I live, it’s really hard to land a job like that so I thought that it is a perfect opportunity to get experience and, being a recruiter in the past, I know how “UX/UI Designer” in your resume looks (very good!). Even it the comfails in 2 months, I will have some experience in it. And… I’m not a person that gives up that easily. Negotiating, persuading and explaining is a valuable experience in all kinds of business environment.

@treyroady They have done some kind of analysis, they were just not willing to share it with me. I’m asking gazzilion of questions, just getting one fourth of what I want to find out. I start believing that they don’t want to talk to me about this as they treat me as the colors girl. My first week was to create a logo, now I’m working on the website’s visual interface. I’m trying to make this job as UX as possible but they are making me hard.

And let’s forget about the “get out of ther ASAP” advice for now. Let’s also forget about their unwillingness to cooperate.

Where would you start your research? To know better the product, the environment, the market, etc?

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They seem to want you to know on the spot, but want to keep you in the dark on the details of the project.

I would think it rather impossible to really do proper due dilligence on the research itself, as you’re left out of the loop. It sounds a bit like trying to build a ship in a bottle: you’re trying to get the information you need to build a proper idea of the user, the market, and the tool, but you have to pull it little-by-little out of the bottleneck.

The only workaround I could recommend is to build as modularly and simply as possible. Assume that you’re going to have to replace entire swathes of work as you discover more information.


This is the approach that will have to be taken, but it’s absolutely not ideal.

@mag_sobieszuk - As I was reading around today, I came across this article. Perhaps this may help you keep the conversations with your stakeholders going.



that’s a weird position to be in - a company that doesn’t want to share their information with you, doesn’t really make sense to me.


I think the best way to discover the audience is to discuss with the stakeholders. Make interviews of the principals involve in the project and ask them what is their visions of the project and for who they think they project is for.

Then try to collect the data and define who is the principal audience, the secondary, the third and so on and so forth.

Then with the data collected and the audience mostly defined make a user research and analyse by observing real people who fit into the audience and collect some data (the best is to make a experience map). Try to observe a minimum of 5 peoples per category of audience.

And finally in your big white board full of post-it define 1 to 3 personas per category.

It’s just my thought but I hope that help

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Good one! Thanks!

That helps a lot! Thank you!

In the meantime, I was able to gather more information. It turns out that the people who work at the company (software architect, developers, data scientis) are also the potential users of the tool they’re building. The tool will be used internally within the company as it grows, it’ll need some data operators. And it’s all good with this part. I’m gonna interview the guys as if they were proper users :wink: (trying to ignore the fact that they know about the tool more than I know). The problem is with the Client side users. My stakeholders don’t know them. It might be anyone who works with data, data analysis, data modeling, data collection, etc at a company that hires more than 50 people (our target Clients).

Where do I get the people who define my target audience? How do I get them engaged? How can I observe them?

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