Digital Product Research

Building on Personas

Building on Personas


Who are we interacting with?

When I am introduced to the challenge of building or enhancing a digital product the first thing that I look to understand is who the user is.  Most of the time stakeholders are convinced on who their customers are and what they want but often when I ask to see they data collected about their users they don’t have much to hand over and what they do have is a bunch of numbers distributed across a variety of documents.

I want to talk about representing these numbers through a concept called Personas.

  • We need to know exactly who we are interacting with.
  • What are they trying to do?
  • What the current process & customer journey is.
  • Are there any other interactions touching other parts of the organization within the journey?
  • Why are they trying to do this through our digital product?
  • What brought them to use our product instead of another?
  • What is the users end goal?

The thing I am looking for here is more than simply a who but also why and how.  Understanding behavior in fact is what will help us guide the user through to conversion.

So whats so great about building and adopting Personas within an organization?

  • They help us better understand our customers.
  • They make us see things from the customers point of view.
  • Company-wide Persona acceptance forces the organization to approach things differently when making strategic decisions.

What you see here is a classic example of what I call a “traditional” Persona. (You can find in a Google search)

From a digital product perspective we can’t stop and be satisfied with the traditional Persona concept as these are limited to describing the customers attitudes or what influences them. 

What we want to do as Product Managers is understand the customers behavior.

What Product managers need for UX & CX

The questions we need answers to about the user are different and only these answers will give us insight to develop more usable and more valuable products for our users.

Firstly.. speak with the users by spending time with them whether that be in focus groups or controlled testing. 

There are other things we can do to better understand our users and there isn’t a “right” & “wrong” way to do it…  I think everyone should be creative but answer a few questions along the way.  Let’s look at them.

Story Cards

These should focus on what the user wants to accomplish and should not “speak” about the user but instead on their goals.

Here is an approach you can start with.

  • Make it short, 4 to 6 lines.
  • Make it simple.
  • Work with an actual user when you write it.
  • Tell about who the user is.
  • What they are trying to do?
  • What is their ultimate goal?
  • Each story card should end with bringing some value to the user.
  • Make sure it is a testable story.

With story cards we can eliminate traditional documentation and focus on the person’s functional desires.  We should have many cards for every user we encounter and in the end by creating many cards for each of our personas we will eventually have a detailed picture of what each of them is actually trying to achieve.

Empathy Maps

Use empathy maps to dive deeper into the user’s environment and focus more on goals and behavior and build on the personas. (Think of it as an extension of the persona)

Ask questions like:

  • What do they already know?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What else might our user be doing while using our product?
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • What are they doing to achieve this?
  • Who is with the user while they are using our product?
  • What are the pain points and preoccupations?
  • How do they feel?
  • What does our product look like in their environment?
An Empathy Map:

Customer Journey Maps

Here is where we go from “looking” at our user and start focusing on our “customer” and what journey they take when engaging with our company and products.  As a customer our user takes different steps when interacting with our company and this makes journey mapping so valuable.  Over the journey, the customer will have different feelings, questions and ultimately may feel more or less comfortable with the interaction they are having through our product or with our company. 

Journey maps help us understand the change in attitude that our customers go through and this helps us make positive changes to the way we interact with them.

We should map the journeys as a series of steps and each step must contain a part of the total customer journey. Some questions you can ask when building your maps are: 

  • What part of the company or product are they interacting with? (Online, brick&mortar, social, phone)
  • What are they trying to do?
  • How do they feel during this journey?
  • Who are they interacting with at each step?

Try to keep them short but complete, these should be examples of “general” scenarios, no 2 users will ever have identical journeys but we are trying to get a general overview of what each of these could be.

This example says a lot about how simple a journey map can be and still be effective.