All people are different. In bazillion ways. Some are young, some – old. Highly educated or just in pre-school. Some like cats, others like dogs. Some have an iPhone, others use an Android phone.

When we build software we most often build it for someone else to use. And the people that use that software are different from us. They know different things, they expect different things, and they like different things.

So you cannot possibly expect that when you build a feature, everyone will know how or why to use it. If you bet on a wrong design people will simply tell you that your software sucks. And even worse – they’ll not use it.

What can you do about that?

When designing your solution, try to step into the shoes of your users and try to see the world through their eyes.

One of the ways to do this is by using a method invented nearly two decades ago. It is called personas.

What are personas?

Personas are a description of the typical users (or user types) of your software. The description should include 2 things:

  • Pre-existing knowledge, skills and background – E.g. is your persona highly trained and motivated to use your software? Or is he a beginner computer user with little or no knowledge of how software works in general?
  • Goals – what does this person (or user type) want from your product/service? What do they want to achieve by using it?

Based on that knowledge you can make important decisions about your product. E.g. if your persona is a highly skilled IT professional that is using a specific and highly specialized tool (like Visual Studio), you can assume that he/she can handle a more complex interface with a lot of functionality. As opposed to your grandmother, for example.

How to create a persona?

First – decide who your main types of users are.

When you’ve defined your key personas (usually 1-2 up to 5 are enough) – research them and describe them. The best way to gather valuable data is to go out and see where users work, observe how they actually work and get first-hand information.

If getting first hand impressions is not easy, then you can:

  • brainstorm
  • analyze market or UX research data,
  • utilize website or app analytics,
  • talk to your sales & support people for real insights.

Make sure each persona:

  • has a real name and picture, so that you can address it like you would, a real person,
  • has a description of how much skills and knowledge the user has, so that your product design makes sense at the end.
  • has goals, so that you can validate if your features meet these goals.

Example:

Example Persona

Go to uxmatters to see details. - http://uxmag.com/articles/personas-the-foundation-of-a-great-user-experience

Why use personas?

  • They give a face to your users. So instead of imagining, you design for a real person (“What would John think of this when he sees it? What would he do?).
  • When you’ve defined your personas you can validate the real-world value of the features of your product easier. It is easier to decide if a particular feature is worth building (“Would Mary need this?”) You can even prioritize what to do first, based on the value each specific feature brings to the user.
  • Formalizing the effort of preparing the persona document makes your team think about your users. It helps build shared understanding of who you are building a product for.

Personas and Agile

Using personas in an Agile environment actually makes a lot of sense, because:

  1. Being able to prioritize and validate and knowing what your users need most, is at the heart of agile. Delivering the highest value features first is best, both for your users and for your clients.
  2. Personas are an excellent tool for enhancing collaboration both within the team and with your customers.
  3. They keep your product design user-centered.

It is no coincidence that personas are so engrained in the story writing format. Here is an example from the TeamPulse backlog:

As a Product owner I (Joel) need a way to track and manage my product ideas, so that they are not lost or forgotten.

Here, the persona is Joel – our imaginary product owner type of user.

Using personas in TeamPulse

TeamPulse provides an easy and intuitive way to define your personas and relate them to your user stories by simply assigning the persona to the work item in just a click.

Using personas in TeamPulse

The tool also shows how many user stories are related to a particular persona, so you never lose the big picture.

Persona associated to user stories

In addition to that, you can filter any TeamPulse view by a particular persona. That means that you can easily extract from your backlog only the user stories for a particular part of your target audience.

Filter TeamPulse views by persona

Get a free 30-day trial of the new version of TeamPulse now.

The new version of TeamPulse just got released on October 29th. Among the other new features are also Git and GitHub integration, REST API, Team Reports and Pass/Fail Visual Indicators for Acceptance Criteria.


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