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Creating Personas for

Product development

A persona is an impersonation of a typical user. A good persona helps anyone understand everything (traits, actions, aspirations, needs) about the user. It helps understand why and how a user is using your product. And this is why creating personas is one of the most important jobs of a product manager.

Now that I have established the importance of personas, let’s get into the steps of creating personas.

Step - 1

The first thing you need to do is collect background information about the users. Background details can be demographic details, personal details, professional details, etc. Such as age, sex, place of stay, no of family members, education, job role, designation, income, years of experience, etc. With practice, you’ll know which from the above are important and which are not for your product.

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You can collect the background details from customer surveys and user tracking tools.

Step - 2

Now that you have collected background information for hundreds or thousands of users, you need to group them. Well, it doesn’t matter how many groups / clusters you make but each of them should represent distinct characteristics and behavioral patterns. So, basically you narrow down your huge customer base into few distinct personality clusters as shown below.

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For example, let’s suppose you are the PM of a job listing website called BestJobs

BestJobs has 150,000 active members. When you collect the background information for a sample set of users, you find that while the demographic and personal details are very varied, there is a clear distinction in the professional details. The users coming on your platform are either college students looking for their first job or working professionals looking for a change. Distinct characteristics and behavioral patterns. And you create two groups - 1. College students; 2. Working professionals.

This was an oversimplification, though. A job site may be looking at clusters like blue collar workers, IT employees, military personnels, retired people, students from premier colleges, engineering students, arts students, graduates from tier two cities, etc. 

Remember, each group is representative of a combination of characteristics and behavioural patterns. So each group will have its own persona.

Step - 3

Finally it’s time to build the persona. Now since a persona is representative of a person, the first step will be to put a face to it. Draw an image or click a picture of your persona. Give him / her a name. We’ll use the below image and call him Hari.

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Next we need to add some basic details about him. Based on the group he belongs to we can add few details. Let’s suppose Hari is an IT employee from Kolkata. He has 6 members in his family. His parents, wife and two toddlers, twins. He is between 30-32 years old. He is currently working as a Senior Engineer with an Indian MNC. Earns around Rs.70,000 a month. Hari has signed up on BestJobs three months back.

Then let’s create a backstory. Hari’s father is soon going to retire. His mother has been a housewife. His wife has left her job after the twins were born. Hari is going to be the only earning member in the family. Financially they are okay. They live in their own house, not a rented one. He has a car loan which will be over by early next year. But with his father’s retirement, his wife leaving her job and the twins’ increasing needs, Hari has been thinking of increasing his income.

If you are using a Persona template you can start filling in the details. If you are not using any template, you can summarise all that we know about Hari as I did below.

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But you still don't know anything about Hari's goals, aspirations and frustrations. To do so you need to put ourselves in Hari's shoes. Visualise his entire day. What he does immediately when he gets up. What he does when he is commuting to work. Who are his friends in the office? What do they talk about?

Let’s say Hari gets up in the morning at 7a.m. Goes for a walk with the kids. Back at home by 8. Takes a bath, eats breakfast and leaves for work by 9. He takes the metro rail. It’s an hour-long journey. During that time he usually listens to music while surfing online. Based on his surfing history he is interested in tech news, stock market and sports. When in office he replies to emails, attends scrum meetings, and helps his team mates with their work before heading out to early lunch. He takes lunch with a couple of friends. They too are engineering graduates and share similar interests. They talk about the latest tech gossip and sports. After lunch, Hari works alone on software development. He again meets the same friends for a tea break around 5p.m. He attends some meetings and conference calls later in the evening. And leaves the office around 8:30p.m. The same metro rail back to home. Listening to music or surfing social apps. Back home, he plays with his kids, watches news on TV. He goes to bed around 12a.m.

Now that you know about a day in the life of Hari, you’ll be able to guess the expectations and frustrations when he comes to your platform. When Hari opens your app while taking the kids for a morning walk, he is thinking of best education for them. He is looking for a good pay raise to meet the expenses. When Hari opens your app after a long and tiring work day, he is looking for a good work life balance so that he can return home early. And so on.

The better you empathise  the better you’ll build to your persona.  We can now add the final details.

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Step - 4

Also ask your team members to do Step-3. Then meet, discuss and reach a final persona. This is important because collective decision brings out better output. This makes the personas acceptable and easily accessible to the whole team. 

Lastly, you can also share the personas with the key members of your organisation.

Step - 5

Now that you have the personas ready, you should plan your product development activities such that it helps the personas. Each feature you roll out should be trying to meet the aspirations or remove the frustrations of one or more of your personas. When you plan the feature, think what Hari will think of it.

Always remember, when you intimately know your users and what they want with your product, you can truly deliver features that make them happy.

 

Until next time.

Author
AuthorJoydeep Sil

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