All you need to know about user personas (Part II)

In the previous post, we discussed who user personas are and why they are important for Information Developers, considered key elements that should be included into a persona card, and reviewed a user persona sample card.

In this article, I will provide steps on how to create user personas, share some practical tips, discuss how Information Developer can apply user personas, as well as give references for further reading.

“Personas are a way to give the user a seat at the table every time.” Kendra Shimmell

How to create user personas?

To cover all the diverse readers of your content, I recommend creating multiple user personas (three or four). The persona that covers the majority of your users will become the primary user persona and should be the center of your attention when creating the content.

You need to clarify for yourself the level of technical skills of your users, their background, how their workdays look like, when they read your content and on what devices.

Your personas are only as good as the research behind them.

Start the brainstorming process to create accurate representations of your users:

  1. Gather information: If possible, meet your users in person. Communicate and let users express themselves, ask questions to get the answers you do not know. If you cannot access your users directly, then communicate with a call center, support team, business analysts, product managers, marketing department, or other people that might have a direct contact with users.
  2. Observe users: Spend time watching users in an environment that makes the most sense for using the product. Try to find out what tasks they try to accomplish, what problems to solve. There are a few techniques for observing and gathering data: one-on-one interviews and in-depth conversations; observing a user for a day or longer and asking questions throughout; a technique where a user teaches you, an observer, the system they use or common activities they perform.
  3. Analyze the data: Find repetitive patterns in the interviewees’ responses and actions. Organize their behavior into persona groups that represent your target readers. For some cases, computer proficiency will be a key variable, while for other cases—some lifestyle characteristics. Define your primary user persona based on the behavioral pattern that is typical for the majority of your readers.
  4. Create user models: Based on the patterns found, create the minimum number of user models (3 or 4 is enough) to make them more accurate. Develop detailed descriptions of each personas’ background, motivations, and expectations. Organize your research in 1 or 2 pages, not more.

The people and pictures might be fictional, but the details should be factual.

Tips to remember

As a creator of user personas, you are responsible for the significance of information. Take into account the following:

  • Not all research data and statistics that you have gathered is meaningful and needs to be included.
  • If you are not sure about the validity of information, exclude it.
  • Never stop working to understand and define your contemporary target readers. Update user persona profiles, needs, and behavior with the development of the product.

User persona is like a real person, never constant, ever changing.

How to apply personas?

When creating content, I always keep in mind who I am writing for, how I present the information, and whether my readers will benefit from it. Personas help me concentrate on different types of readers and, thus, create concise and effective content. When I write for novice users, I create step-by-step procedures with clear screenshots and describe tasks in detail. When writing for advanced users, I concentrate more on the logic of interaction and deeply technical diagrams.

Additionally, other members of your team can benefit from user personas. You can place cards with user personas where they are visible and can be easily approached by all team members. This might be a wall beside you, a whiteboard, or a lounge area in a room. Also, consider uploading persona cards to team collaboration website because some people are too lazy to wander around the room looking for printed cards.

User persona references

If you want your readers to have the feeling that the documentation was crafted just for them, their needs and goals, answers all their questions, is concise, efficient, and easy to navigate, then do not hesitate to start including personas into your work life.

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