APR: Persona Development

Creating Personas

The last step in our agile software development project was documenting our understanding of our users. In this article, we will define the personas that we will use to guide our design and requirement development. This definition of personas is built by combining our experiences in consulting, product and program management, and business analysis.

A couple other good articles on how to create personas:

In this article we define our primary, secondary, and supplemental user personas.

One of the main benefits of developing personas is that we avoid the “elastic user”, where we map characteristics to “the users” at our convenience. The risk of the elastic user is that we design part of the interface for an expert, and part of it for a beginner – all the while calling them “the user.” By defining personas, we can make sure that a particular design is well suited to an archetypical user, not an amalgam of ill-defined users.

Primary Persona: Jill The Business Analyst


Jill just got promoted to senior analyst at her firm. She’s on the road 4 or 5 days a week working with clients, and doesn’t have time to read a book in order to get one or two new ideas she can use. Her Blackberry is a lifeline to the people at her company – the reason she went there anyway is for the great people, and now she’s on the road working with clients all the time.

Jill is 28, lives in an apartment, her car lives at the airport, and she’s looking for the day when she can make partner and cut her travel down to every other week. She knows she has to grow the scope of her role to step up to the next level, and she’s focused on doing exactly that.

Secondary Persona: Paul The Product Manager


Paul is 43 years old and is one of 5 product managers at his company, and has half a dozen books scattered around his home in various stages of completion. He drives a hybrid Escape because he wants to help push environmentalism, but needs the utility of a larger car for taking his twins to soccer games. Paul is always looking for ways to make his company’s products better, and whenever he finds a new idea, the first thing he does is share it with the rest of his team.

Paul’s iPod playlist reads like the top-10 songs from Billboard in every genre – he doesn’t care what type of music it is, as long as it is best of breed. He buys blank CDs in bulk and is constantly burning mix-discs for his friends to help them stay on top of “the best” music.

Secondary Persona: Brian The Blogger


Brian had always been a little bit counter-culture, and was regularly frustrated with how his team was forced to run their development projects. He went to an Agile conference when it happened in his city, and began researching agile processes. He convinced his project and eventually his department to convert to agile approaches and he loves how it has changed his work environment, and his team’s success.

It is important to Brian that other people benefit from what he’s experienced, and he started a blog as a means to spread the word. He also uses the blog to foster communication with other people that push him forward in agile practices, which he then rolls back into his job. At 26, John is a big open-source advocate and contributes to a project that is building open source publishing packages. His blog also serves as one of the deployments of that package, allowing him to combine his efforts and passions so that he gets the most results from his efforts.

Supplemental Persona: Ellen The Program Manager


Ellen built her career as a project manager outside of IT in a large corporation, and loved helping her teams deliver great solutions. But she wasn’t enjoying the high percentage of time she spent asking people “how much longer?” and “if we change this, what will happen?” What Ellen thrived on was seeing how all the parts worked together, and knowing when something didn’t matter. She just moved, at 36, into a new role as a program manager on a team in IT, and now she gets to spend most of her time “doing valuable stuff.”

Ellen loves that she’s leveraging her big-picture understanding in her daily work. But she’s scrambling to get up to speed on the tools of the trade. There’s so much to learn. Ellen realizes that if the IT team can’t deliver well, their jobs will be outsourced (and she’s acutely aware of the negative perception IT has in the rest of the company). Ellen goes to lunch with the co-workers from previous departments (who her co-workers now call “the users”), because those folks are more real than her IT cohorts. This helps her stay “tapped in” to what people are actually trying to do – and when she needs to know something, she just calls a buddy and ask. Her great network is ready to be leveraged, as soon as she learns how.

Who Are You?

In an earlier post, the question was asked – who are the readers of Tyner Blain (presumed to be representative of the users of this new site)? In the poll below, please select which persona (if any) you feel helps to identify you. It may not be any of them, or it may be a combination of all of them. If you have a different approach or set of goals that aren’t covered above, please tell us about how you would approach a ratings site.


1 thought on “APR: Persona Development

  1. Adding a comment here – other discussions have introduced the notion of Eddie the Editor. Someone who “cleans house” on the site – much like the people that police wikipedia. Not defining now, just creating a reminder that this came up on other article discussions.

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