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Understanding the various types of site user is essential to help understand the different user experiences that need to be created.

Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behaviour set that might use your website. 

are useful in considering the goals and desires of different users – to help guide your decisions before introducing specific content, services, products, features, interactions, or visual design 
A user persona 
is a representation of the goals and behaviour of a group of users.  

During a workshop we often seek to discover and capture descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.