How Pragmatic Personas Help You Understand Your End-User


About their pains and goals, and what makes them want to use this software:

  • What makes them happy? If I'm interviewing potential users for a piece of software, I always ask them to tell me about a good daya day when using this product or one like it went well. From that conversation you'll usually get a good idea of why software like this is valuable to them. For someone donating money to a charitable organization, he might describe a situation where he found a small non-profit that he really felt good about helping, and thus felt his donation made a difference.
  • What makes them mad? These are the sorts of things they're trying to avoidthings that can go wrong with your type of product, or things they're trying to avoid by using your product.

About their use of software:

  • What are the basic things for which they're likely to use the software?
  • Where are they likely to be when using the software?
  • How often are they likely to use the software?
  • Who are the other people with whom they work or collaborate when using the software?
  • What other software or non-software tools are they likely to use with your software or instead of your software?

3. Build Your Pragmatic Persona
Now the fun part. Put your best novelist or screenwriter hat on. It's time to tie all the information together into a tangible character.

Figure 1

The sample persona in figure 1 is for Chuck the Casual Web Surfer, a persona a team and I put together for Mano a Mano, a nonprofit organization building applications to accept online donations.

Name your persona. I like to make the first name of the persona start with the same later as the user typelike Chuck the Casual Web Surfer. Write the persona's name and role clearly at the top.

Give your persona a face. I like to draw simple pictures. But, I sometimes cheat by pulling pictures from magazines, finding Creative Commons-licensed pictures on Flickr, or buying them from iStockPhoto. Don't skip this step. You'll be surprised how much easier it is to talk about your persona when you can look him in the face.

Put your persona in front of your software. To the right of Chuck's picture is the situation in which we've put Chuck. He's just received a tweet from a friend about Mano a Mano. Following a link will take him to the website.

Tell us about your persona. You don't have much space to write here, so don't waste it by telling us about your persona's dog or hobbiesthey don't matter. Tell us things about your persona that will help us make decisions about the software. For Chuck, we noted that "he wants to feel like his small contribution matters." We discussed the fact that he didn't have a lot of money to give and he hates giving it to a large organization, believing that his money will go to buy coffee for the phone solicitors trying to collect even more money. Our single, bulleted statement sums up these sentiments.

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