Persona tips for dummies


It is time to write in more details about persona’s creation, as I promised in one of my previous articles. I collected all the tips we developed while working with persona. This step is often skipped, but without it we can’t find out our target user needs, as we actually don’t know who are our users. Persona provide us a great testing filter for all our ideas and features. They guide us to make certain decisions, even we are just the development team and product owner is far-far away over the ocean. We used persona in the development teams not to forget about our users and always validated any action with “Would John like this?”. On the initial stages of the project personas are the powerful tool to map your ideas on the real people’s needs.

Creating personas – iteration process too

Surprisingly we can’t create ideal persona from attempt 1 (recently I started noticing that all my life goes through “hypothesis – development – test – learn- change hypothesis”. Even if we have the best experts on board – they can’t make 100% accurate predictions). So personas need minimum 2 revisions before they can become “real” in our project. The way would be the following – you create persona, then you go and test it with the real life people. Yes, unfortunately you’ll need to go out of your wonderful office and talk to real people – interviews are the best. Also I like observations. But I never succeed to be “invisible” during my observations, as usually it was going this way: manager of the working unit I came to took me to the office room and told everyone “Hello guys, this is Galina, she is from that company that develops us application A. She is going to study how we are working”. And everyone stared at me and smiled. After that they worked the best way they could (I hope). But I am going to improve my experimental skills.


Back to the topic, I came across definition of “proto-personas” and “provisional personas” on the internet, so I think this “validation” makes your initial personas a provisional ones.

Start with a draft “sketchy” personas and “test” them step by step. You don’t need to be precise from the beginning, “sketchy” personas are very useful for agile/lean environment, when we tend to test our assumptions as quick as possible.

Too much is not good

Yes, you have to collect a lot of information to understand your users: interviews, observations, etc. But don’t put all that info to your persona. Of course you should add that he owns very cute kitten, but do not describe all animals in his yard.
Too much details make it difficult to work with persona.

Make your personas diverse

Do not forget about all parties. If you are creating the toy, for example,children would like to have a lot of features in it, even a radioactive reactor, but will parents be happy with the price and the safeness? In this example you can even call parents “customers” and children “users”.

Make you personal “real”

We should help developers to feel and cultivate empathy for the users and customers and also to look at the product from the user’s perspective. To achieve this, your personas have to be believable.

Do not forget:

  • Give your persona a real name
  • Attach a real photo. Sometimes people use photos of celebrities as persona photos. But I think to be real it should be a photo of the average person, not a film star. Of course, if you are not creating an application for celebrities 🙂
  • Involve development team in the process – it always help. Create personas together.
  • Put personas on your scrum board or wall. Everyone from the team should see them.
  • Add the “user quote” to each person – the one, which describe it the best.

IMG_1301Does he look real enough?

Choose which personas are primary

Better even to choose one primary persona. It will be helpful for prioritizing all your ideas and features, as you’ll have to fulfil the needs of this primary persona first. Also it can help with the design and any other decisions. For example, if Jeff, 76 is our primary persona – we definitely need to create design suitable for elderly people. But if he is the secondary one – we can add some elements of “adaptation” only.

Use personas in user stories

First we create persona and then write in our user stories “As the user I want”. But why? Make the most of your personas, and use them in the scenarios, the storyboards, the workflows, and the user stories you discover.



And remember – there is no one solution which suits all cases. There are products which don’t need personas. Example? First, which comes to my mind is “product with no end users” 🙂

2 thoughts on “Persona tips for dummies

  1. I’m very pleased that you liked my recent posts on Scrum – I’m not pleased that you liked them, I’m mostly pleased that I’ve discovered your blog as a result! What a wonderful resource you have created – thank you for that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s