May 17, 2010

User Personas

Having touched upon the idea of integrating user behavior into the product design in the previous post, let me explore further on this topic. One of the approaches that I have found to be very useful is this idea of "user personas".

By trying to build a persona, one gets to understand the intricacies of the user behavior. This provides valuable inputs that can be fed into the product design.

A user persona is a mechanism to understand the potential users of your product or service. The idea of a persona derives more from the behavioral and psychographic aspects of the users.

In order to build a user persona, explore the following questions:
* Who is my customer?
* Where does he live?
* What does his typical day look like?
* Whom does he interact with on a typical day?
* What motivates him to do something?
* What irritates him the most?
* What is his typical personality?
* Is he intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?
* Under what circumstances does he feel the pain point that you are trying to solve?
* What are the after-effects when he faces the pain point that you are trying to solve?

It helps if you can build a story around this user by giving a fictitious name and articulating his environment. You can also come up with hand sketches and drawings to illustrate the personality of the user of your product idea. This can provide useful and interesting inputs to your design and engineering teams.

If your product or service is catered to different market segments, build a user persona that represents each of these segments. Highlight the difference in the behaviors of these different users.

The best time to take up this persona building activity is just after you are done with segmentation of your market and just before you formulate the product strategy. With segmentation in place, you will exactly know which markets to target and depending on the target segments, whether the personas will be different. After you have the personas clearly defined, it will be much more easier to think about your product roadmap and the needs you will address for your target segments.

For more information on personas, check out these blogs:

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