People matter and it’s your business to know why.

Don’t forget the who when asking what you
should build.

We constantly need reminders that the people we are creating for exist and they should be at the forefront of our thoughts when building. Once you’ve had the chance to speak to them, you should aim to synthesize your knowledge of that group by putting their personalities and details out into your organization in a tangible form.

In walks personas

Persona was coined by Alan Cooper as a way to capture attributes of person-type that can be simulated as user when solving problems. Much like people, personas come in different shapes and sizes. They’re diverse in content, emphasis and tone. Some people like real photos others prefer a less literal representation such as cartoons. Weighing out the strengths and weaknesses of the types of personas is important to the direction you should take when you create them. I won’t sit here and criticize types of personas, however, the amount of time you spend on them does matter. Getting a clear view of who your personas are meant to represent can help to align your organizations solutions with your users goals.

Step 1: Get the lay of your land

Meet your users. Send out emails, give them calls, send them letters, or go and visit them. Who are you creating your product for? Learn who they are. What makes them similar? What makes them the same? What are their key challenges? Are you successfully solving their current problems? Do they love your product? Do they hate it? You need to get to know who your users are if you want to win their confidence. Having conversations with them also builds trust that your product solves their challenges. Structure questions in a way that you can ask a varied group of people and use their feedback in a meaningful way. Bring members of your team with you. Get their perspective on the conversations you’ve had with your users. Learn from them as well. This is your chance to discover and see the paths you should take as a team to getting to a product that consumers of your product will love.

Step 2: Synthesize your findings

Take the information that you have learned from sitting with your users and group them in a meaningful way. What was paraphrased? Which problems are similar? What is everyone really looking for your product to help them accomplish? Which groups of people are most similar and which are most different?

Synthesizing your research makes what you’ve gathered manageable for your team. You want to help them to get a clear understanding of who you are trying to help when creating your product. You are constantly teaching and the personas that you aim to create will be the users at the table when having conversations with your teams.

Step 3: Share with your team

You don’t work alone. Allow you team to provide feedback based on their meetings with the clients. Encourage a collaborative effort to creating these personas. It’s not always easy but a diversity of input is a valuable asset when creating the standards that will help to guide the principles of how and for whom you create your product.

Step 4: Create the structure

You may not know immediately how much information is too much or not enough. That’s fine, again, it’s a process and it’s iterative. Get as much information down as possible. And add to it as you continue to work through your data. Make a name, title, descriptions, add some key points and move on. It’s easy to get bogged down with the challenge of trying to get everything on paper. However, take some key first steps and add as much information as you can, move on, and come back, and add more information. And keep in mind how you will use information, some personas can be revisited daily, others can be revisited monthly or yearly.

Step 5: Share it with your organization

Make it count. Evangelize your points and reference your research. These contribute to the representation of your users. Put them in front of your team and bring them into the fold of conversation when it counts. Use personas as stayed fixtures in your office. Be proud of them, they demonstrate that your organization listens and more importantly that your product is being created for people who exist and are willing to use your product.

Now it’s up to you to make it happen– get out there and start having the conversations. Talk about why this is important, and apply as much rigor to understanding for whom you are solving the problem as you are to solving them.

Recommended read:
Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez

— Rod