Persona Development

Posted on November 24, 2015 by RJ Sherman

You have developed a website or an app, and all you have heard since the launch are complaints. “Why doesn’t it do this?” “I would never need it to do that!” 

Did you take the time to hear what the user actually wanted before building what you thought would be the next big thing?

How can you do that? Is there a method or process to find out what a user wants? Are there ways to learn about what a user wants that still leaves you time to do the development?

There is a way! Personas.

Let's take a look at two types of personas - Assumption and User Based -  and learn how to develop them.

Assumption Based Personas

Assumption based personas are a good way for teams to begin the process of understanding what they think the users are wanting, are frustrated with, and how they intend to use the end product. The assumption based persona helps the team find the gaps in their knowledge, while also finding a shared goal and vision for the upcoming project.

A great way to develop assumption based personas are as follows:

  • Have the stakeholders give a list of who the targeted users and other impacted groups will be. 
  • Using this list, schedule several hours with your team and invite the stakeholders to participate.

Think about the questions that you want insight on from the perspective of the user. If the user is an external customer, create questions that will give insight to their current needs, feelings, expectations, and frustrations. If the user is an internal customer, here are some recommended questions to ask that may help better understand their expectations:

  1. Tell me about your department and your role in it.
  2. Describe a typical work day.
  3. What activities take up most of your time?
  4. Do you have any impediments that hamper you from getting the work you value completed?
  5. What would you say your goal is?
  6. What are websites and apps you use for your job, externally and internally?
  7. What devices do you use for work?
  8. What would you change about your job/the tools you use?
  9. What are the top 3 challenging or frustrating aspects of your job?
  10. What are your expectations around new projects?
  11. What are your metrics of success?

As a team, go through these (and other questions you may find useful) and answer them from the perspective of your user.

Once you have answers to your questions, aggregate your findings into a fact sheet for each user group. This will help provide guidance to where your team has a solid understanding, and where you need to do more research.

Using this fact sheet, a core persona team that consists of 3-5 people can develop the assumption based persona for each user group.

Once this core team completes this for each targeted user, they will share the assumption based personas with the team. Some suggested questions that the persona should answer are:

  • What am I trying to do?
  • Why am I trying to do this?
  • What do I need to be successful?
  • When do I want to do this?

Sharing these assumption based personas both in a digital format and printing and hanging them on the walls of your team room are great ways to keep these artifacts central to your user story development and task planning.

User Based Personas

An even better way to gain insight into what the users’ expectations are is to create user based personas. These personas take more time to develop, but are vital to validating assumptions that the team may have and may uncover additional needs (or show that the users need less to be satisfied!).

Consider developing assumption based personas first - these do provide valuable insights within your team. After developing those, use the findings to take a targeted approach to actual users and validating your assumptions and filling in the knowledge gaps that your team has identified.

While any kind of user based feedback is important, it is recommended that you talk to a minimum of 3 users that fit the role you are looking to develop. Have questions ready to ask the user that will help fill in knowledge gaps that the team may have. This is also a great opportunity to ask questions that may uncover additional needs, wants, or frustrations. 

Think about the questions that you want insight on from the perspective of the user. If the user is an external customer, create questions that will give insight to their current needs, feelings, expectations, and frustrations. If the user is an internal customer, here are some recommended questions to ask that may help better understand their expectations:

  1. Tell me about your department and your role in it.
  2. Describe a typical work day.
  3. What activities take up most of your time?
  4. Do you have any impediments that hamper you from getting the work you value completed?
  5. What would you say your goal is?
  6. What are websites and apps you use for your job, externally and internally?
  7. What devices do you use for work?
  8. What would you change about your job/the tools you use?
  9. What are the top 3 challenging or frustrating aspects of your job?
  10. What are your expectations around new projects?
  11. What are your metrics of success?

Once you have completed your interviews, aggregate your findings into a fact sheet for each user group. This will help in finding patterns in the users along with organizing all of the knowledge gained during the interviews.

A core persona team that consists of 3-5 people can develop the user based persona for each user group. Some suggested questions that the persona should answer are:

  • What am I trying to do?
  • Why am I trying to do this?
  • What do I need to be successful?
  • When do I want to do this?

Once this core team completes this for each targeted user group, they will share the user based personas with the team. Sharing these both in a digital format and printing and hanging them on the walls of your team room are great ways to keep these artifacts central to your user story development and task planning.

Now is also a good time to go back to the Product Owner and Stakeholders and provide them the user based personas and have them align the product vision and roadmap to what the users are actually saying. Using this information and allowing for the Product Owner and Stakeholders inputs helps put focus on the core features of a product and may reveal a shift from the initial product roadmap.

Conclusion

The creation of personas helps develop a common vision within a team and drives the development of the core features that users need and want. Both assumption and user based personas add significant value by validating how you are developing the product.