Seriously what’s the point of ‘Personas’

In Software Development particularly from a developers perspective, User Personas are a waste of time. Many developers just want to dive into the code and pay no credence to the prior research necessary for delivering compelling user experiences. I must admit I was a bit like this until recently and now it’s clear to me why they are important and the value they provide.

What are Personas?

Personas are basically the end user who your software/app is aimed at. This can be numerous groups of people and each of these groups can have subgroups e.g. your app might be aimed at students, but within students maybe the app should be designed differently for students based on their location. So the student user has a subset user in location ‘a’ and a subset user in location ‘b’. Your other user might be an administrator of the app, meaning they are using a totally different section of the app to the student. Again this user might need a different experience given to them based on a number of variables.

The information included in the persona should ideally be gathered from a real life user e.g. a member of your target audience who you have asked your interview questions about the apps design, functionality and usability. However you can also have focus groups to determine this information but when this is done the information is really just speculation.

How do I make a Persona?

There are many free persona templates online. They normally include a placeholder for the image of your persona, their demographic details and other information. So you fill in this information using real life examples or information that comes out of your focus group. Hang the personas up in the area where your team works and name each persona. Refer to them throughout the day by name; “Would Tom really us this feature?”, and by doing this the personas come alive. By constantly being reminded of your end user the software that’s designed and developed by your team will be infinitely more user focused than before.

But how do Personas add value?

As I mentioned above; by keeping the teams focus on the end user it stops the team spending all their time on a feature that realistically your end user won’t use and instead will spend their time on a feature that your end user will use. It might sound a bit abstract for hardcore software developers but by keeping the end user’s image nearby refocuses the teams attention on the user, not the software. It’s all about the user at the end of the day. There is zero point in spending all your time and resources working on a feature that is not important to the end user. Instead spend your time on giving the end user exactly what they have requested. This way they will derive value from your product.

Real life examples

Just take a look at the apps you use most on your phone; Whatsapp, iTunes, Facebook, Snapchat etc. They all do what you expect them to do as a user. When you open Whatsapp you want to send a free instant message/picture/video to another person/people seamlessly, and you can. You don’t get offered other unrelated features because these are not your requirement as an end user. Your whole user journey revolves around sending a message and that’s why that’s (pretty much) all Whatsapp caters for, because they know their end user.

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