If you’re like most companies, you probably already have user personas that you use in your software development teams.
Or customer personas that you use in your marketing and sales teams. Personas are used for understanding the user, creating user stories, prioritizing issues, and creating targeted marketing collateral.
But most teams still aren’t using personas to their fullest extent. So, we’ve put together our top 10 tips to help you get maximum value from your personas 👇
1. Know how you’ll use them
Before you create your personas, it’s a good idea to get clear on why they’re so important and how you’re going to use them. Otherwise, some team members (not you, of course) might be tempted to skim through the process so they can get back to the real work.
User personas aren’t just a sales or marketing thing - everyone should know who the customer is so they can do a better job of serving them.
Your personas will give you key demographic and psychographic information, how users behave, and what their pain points/goals/objectives are. Plus other factors that influence how they use your product, whether they’re ready to buy (or not), and what will make them sign up (and stick around).
👀 Oh and if you’re part of a cross-functional, agile team, you’ll get even more value from your user personas. Your dev team can use them to identify what customers need and want (so they can prioritize and deliver these solutions). Plus, agile user personas create a face for your user stories so your team can more easily understand who your customers are and empathize with them.
It’s much easier to create something for Johnny Biggles who is a 38yo farmer in East Ireland than it is to create something for an undefined user with equally undefined needs.
Read more in our previous blog about why you need customer personas in agile software development.
2. User, not buyer focused
Your marketing team might’ve created customer personas in the past to talk about user roles (aka job titles) or market segments (aka buyer demographics)… but these aren’t necessarily the same tools as user personas.
And in fact, they probably shouldn’t be “owned” by your marketing team, but by your product owner - although it’s ideal if your whole team can collaborate on them.
Your personas are made-up profiles that describe current and future users of your product (who aren’t necessarily the buyers or decision makers).
Your user personas should have names (that feel like they fit the person), ages (not an age range), and locations (not a general area).
You should have a persona for each category of users that you’d want to uniquely experience the product. In other words, each of your user personas should have specific preferences, goals, and expectations.
3. Do your research
If you haven’t already, do some research on your audience and market using stakeholder interviews, surveys, industry reports, and analytics tools so you know who your users are.
Ask questions to determine demographics, geographics, psychographics, and behaviours. You should start to see patterns emerge which will help you create 3-5 personas that represent the majority of your users.
4. Use a template
Don’t be tempted to get all creative with your user personas.
In this previous blog, we share an example user persona template if you want some inspiration. ✨
5. Keep it relevant
Once you get started with writing your user personas, you might find yourself filling up pages and pages of information, especially if you discover lots of interesting things about your users. But try to rein yourself in a bit and keep your personas to 1 page or less so they’re quick and easy to read.
Focus on attributes that are relevant to understanding how your users interact with your product, and not necessarily every aspect of their daily lives.
That’s why you’ll rarely see things like “Betty likes to eat porridge for breakfast” and “John enjoys long sunset walks at the beach”. Although these could be relevant insights for your product - no judgement!
If in doubt, remember the purpose of your user personas: they should help you back up your decisions with a legitimate, specific need and scenario.
You should have just enough relevant information to be able to answer “what would [user persona name] do?”
6. Keep it real
Your user personas are made up, but they should still feel like real people. Here are some tips to keep them real:
- Cut out any stereotypes and jargon
- Don’t overdo the demography details
- Focus on details that are most relevant to using your product
- Don’t use images that look like stock images
- Base the info on what you know about real people
- Try to resist telling a story that fits the products and features YOU want to build and instead focus on real goals and challenges
7. Focus on your best customers
You can’t target everyone, so don’t try to. So, limit yourself to writing anywhere from 3-5 user personas. These personas should represent your best customers and key user groups.
They won’t include everyone and they shouldn’t. That’s because if you have too many user personas, your team will find it much harder to prioritize user stories and target their marketing efforts 🎯
Less is more (effective).
8. Incorporate them into your processes
Many organizations invest time in creating user personas only to have them collect virtual cobwebs in a Google Drive somewhere 🕸️But user personas work best when used regularly and incorporated into daily/weekly processes.
For example, your marketing team might pick a persona to focus their content efforts on for the week. Your sales team might glance at the objections listed on each of your key personas to help guide calls with potential customers.
Or your agile team might bring out the user personas to help with user story mapping so they can write more realistic user stories 👌
9. Give access to your whole team
User personas are useful for all your team members - from marketing and sales to design and development. So, make sure everyone knows they exist and where to find them.
If your team is partly remote/distributed, make sure your personas are accessible in the cloud. Or better yet...
10. Link them to your project management tool
If you’re using a project management tool like Jira, you should take a look at Easy Agile Personas for Jira. This tool allows you to capture your user persona details in the same place as your user stories, backlog, and tasks.
Which means your team enjoys:
- Better alignment on who the users are and what they need
- Extra context for each task
- The ability to prioritize the backlog and deliver on what’s most valuable to users
- A tailored view of the current issues and stories linked to each of your user personas
- All the info they need, all in one place
Bonus tip: let your user personas evolve
Just like Pokemon, your personas need to level up and evolve, too 🔥 That way, you’ll be better equipped for battle… or to deliver a well-loved product and marketing that hits the mark every time. Either way 🤷
But times change, technology changes, and so do your users. That means your user personas need to change, too. So, if you’ve already got some customer/user personas, take this chance to review them, update them, and make sure they’re being used effectively by your team. And if your team uses Jira, make sure you sign up for a free trial of Easy Agile Personas to add them to your Jira board.