Pragmatic Personas: Concrete Examples of Your Users

Jeff Patton’s talk at agile 2009 about Pragmatic Personas is quite interesting. I’ve seen talks about personas way back at agile 2007 already, but, at that time, I found them quite “bulky” to use. In pragmatic personas I see more value.

What is a Pragmatic Persona?

Jeff defines a pragmatic persona by having a name like “Jeff, UX Expert”, describing the current situation of the persona, an about section describing goals and needs of the persona and a section describing how our application could add value for the persona.

Baldin, the homeless dude
by Michele Eve Situation:

  • 43 years old
  • has no home
  • ran out of money a long time ago
Goals:

  • Wants to find the best place to stay for the night
Value:

  • Our webapp could show him the occupation status of the various bridges in the area.
  • He could reserve a place

Personas Act as Concrete Examples

When you’re doing TDD, you formulate concrete examples to test your code. You test your divide method with examples like divide(0, 0), divide(0, 1), divide(4, 2), etc.
Personas can act as concrete examples for your user stories and your automated acceptance tests. They will never give you the full picture of all your users, but if you define them wisely, you can come up with the critical variations (like finding the border cases for your test cases e.g. divide by zero).

A Persona Tells You What You Know About Your Users And What You Don’t Know

One interesting aspect of using pragmatic personas is that by trying to fill out situation, goals and values you find out what you don’t know about your users. If you have trouble describing a sample situation or the goals of a specific user, you should go and find out more about it. This way, pragmatic personas reduce the risk in your product development by pointing out your weak spots before it is too late.

Only using one “persona”: the user (as most of us usually do) is much worse than coming up with some real world examples of who is using your product and why. Give it a try, you won’t regret it!

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