Oftentimes when we are developing software, we look at the feature, the functionality, and the “coolness” factors around the tech rather than the actual problem you want to solve. Once the investment has been made, an organization expects a return on that investment. As a Product Manager, it’s your responsibility to ship the correct product to the market. It’s important to identify who you are trying to solve the problem for and their current pains with your product and the potential gains from delivering the new feature or product. This post describes the process of defining the “who” through personas.
What is a Persona?
“Personas are tools to help you understand your customers, they are not actual end customers. A great way to think about the difference is that Facebook and Snapchat have many of the same customers, but their internal personas—how they segment those customers and what aspects of the product they care about—are different.” Excerpt From: Josh Anon. “The Product Book.”
The Common Pitfalls of Product
As a Product Manager, it’s crucial to identify and understand the personas you have defined. Coming from an engineering background, we tend to get hung up on how to solve the problem and the tooling used to solve it.
For example, I may want to create a new login flow for my website to make it easier for my customers to sign up and enter my site. My developer mindset is thinking, “okay, I need Postgres to store the user information, I’ll use golang to build the new backend functionality, oh and that new thing everyone is talking about, Kubernetes? Yes, we’ll use that too!”
Tools are great, however, we need to think about our personas, do they really care that our application runs on Kubernetes? That it’s written in Go? That you're storing their login credentials in Postgres? The answer is probably not!
Another common pitfall we see in the field is that we generate all this “hype” around a product without fully defining who will be the end-user and what problem are we solving for them, i.e. Google Glass. Google was trying to push into the wearables market, unfortunately, they didn’t tackle a problem that people were facing and on top of that, they couldn’t articulate a specific customer/target market for their product.
To not fall into this trap, creating a persona map or library helps product teams identify the specific kind of user they want to target with their feature or product. The persona tends to experience the problem that the feature is attempting to address.
Sample Persona Map
Persona - What’s their name?
Demographic - What does this persona do? Where do they live? How old are they?
Trait - Identify the traits that define this persona. Who these people are that are using the product? What do they like and dislike?
Goals/Pains - Why would this person use your product? What are their goals to accomplish with this product? What are their pains with the current status quo? Why are they putting themselves through that pain?
Building your Personas
Over time, you can compile these personas and keep a library. You don’t have to keep recreating the same ones over and over again. The library serves as your base set of personas, so expect your personas and your library to evolve.
It’s good to validate these personas by interviewing your customers and actual end-users. By getting information on an actual customer, a product manager can refine their personas to be more accurate and representative of their user base.
Remember, these personas should be accurate and believable. The more far fetched or spread out the traits are, the less likely the product iteration meets the end-user’s needs.
Build your personas with the intent to provide context to your engineering teams. Engineering needs to understand the feature they are building; try to answer the following questions:
- Who is it for?
- Why do they need it?
- What are their traits?
- What are they trying to accomplish and why?
- Why are they undergoing this “pain”?
Your persona needs to be able to end any disagreement around the experience or the adoption of the feature. While keeping in perspective who will use it and who it is for we can get engineering and product on the same track to deliver a successful experience.
In this post, we shared how to develop a list of personas that represent end-users of your product! With this list, a Product Manager will be able to explicitly identify the users who will be impacted by the new feature or product. Managers should justify and quickly validate their product with a target persona in mind while developing and scoping out the feature or product. When shipping the product, you can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome by keeping the target personas in the minds of your design and engineering teams. As a PM, alignment on the who and why of a product or feature is critical. Check out more awesome content on how to deliver better products here at deliver-better.com!