User profiles (personas)
A persona is a mini-biography of a fictional user for your product or proposed product. A good persona provides precise information about the character and describes their goals and motivations. Different types of persona can be created. It may be most appropriate to define the 'average', stereotypical user. Alternatively, additional insight could be gained by considering the extreme users (frequency of use, complexity demanded, power requirements etc.)
When developing a persona, don't worry about being too politically correct. If the product is aimed at Technical Directors and 80% of Technical Directors are white males, then the persona should also be a white male. If the buyer is a different person to the user, then aim the persona at the user as this is of greatest benefits when reviewing design concepts. Most importantly, the persona should represent the behaviour and motivational aspects of the user and not just the job description!
The persona can be used to evaluate design decisions - when an engineer presents a great new 'feature' 6 months before product launch, it is healthy to ask if this new feature fits the needs of the persona most associated with the project - "how would Doris feel about that new feature?" This helps to ensure that all product features are driven by market pull and not technology push. It also helps the engineers to get inside the head of the customers.
Identify the range of possible users
Gather this information and collate it into a coherent picture of your range of different users. Bring together representatives of service, installation, maintenance, specials, sales, marketing and engineering to establish this range of users.
Narrow the list of personas
Keep the persona set small - aim for a minimum set (3-10) which represents the archetypal and extreme users. Choose 3 of these as the 'primary personas'. If in doubt, choose just the one, most 'average' user.
Define the personas - add life to them
Give them names, find a photograph. Describe the persona - physical, mental and emotional attributes. Add some life to the personas - their age, family situation, home life, income, job, hobbies and interests. Think about their personality. What are their favourite things (products) and what do they hate? Be creative but realistic.
Define the persona's goals
The most important element of the persona - the motivating goals and the goals for using the product. Think about the different types of goals:
- Experience goals - how do they want to feel when using the product - confident, excited, not stupid, happy, expert, having fun etc.
- End goals - what have they achieved after using the product - awards, saved money, direct benefits, efficiency, higher quality, happiness, solved a problem etc.
- Corporate goals - increased profit, market share, defeat competition, security, growth etc.
- Practical goals - specific practical outcome having used the product - Avoided problems, satisfied a customer, calculated an answer etc.
- False goals - goals which do not get to the root of the purpose for desiring or using the product - saving memory, measure more quickly etc.
- Quick to do and can be extremely powerful in generating user understanding
- Need to be creative - a good way of encouraging team creativity
- Basic materials required - A2 boards, magazines, possibly a word processor
- Keep it basic and fun - don't try to produce the perfect powerpoint persona!
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