Product Manager Build Persona: It Can be Unprofessional, But It Must be True


This is a question raised by many product newcomers:

  • "Is there any template for persona that can be edited?"
  • "How many people do I need to investigate to make this persona? How to make it?"
  • "I haven't done a user role, which books should I read?"'
  • "I did a questionnaire, is this data enough to make a portrait?"
  • ……..

I have always emphasized to them that as a product designer / manager, there is no need to focus too much on building user personas.

1. User persona's true and false

1. Don’t be obsessed with details

Doesn't it mean that product managers should pay attention to users and grasp user needs? Why not pay too much attention?

First of all, from the perspective of the role and responsibilities of the product manager, the product manager should balance the business and participate in all aspects but can't go deep into them, otherwise the vision will focus on a single point, which is not the main work of product manager, especially now In the mature smart phone age, user needs have already been tapped, and product managers should pay more attention to the ever-changing market.

Secondly, the roles of each job are very different. Don’t underestimate the professionalism of user personas. Just construction requires professional knowledge such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology. If product managers go to focus on dealing with user personas, Isn't this contempt for the user experience design team, including UI/UX designer, and user researcher, professional things should be handed over to professional people.

Even if the product manager really wants to do user personas, what does the actual action look like?

Most of them just think of a few irrelevant questions, do an online questionnaire, and ask users to fill in. In fact, this becomes formalism.

The previous user research was not done properly, resulting in a lack of primary data and no authenticity.

The false will certainly affect the product manager's judgment on the business. Once the direction is wrong, it will be a mess, which is a fatal professional mistake for the product manager.

2. "Insufficient data, experience to make up"

How did most user personas come into being in the end?

Although there are many professional theories for guidance, they are professional and academic after all. Many product people feel upset when they see it, and the time-consuming and labor-intensive output is not obvious, so in the end, they mostly deal with it casually:

Export some data from the previous questionnaire, and then find the user report sorted out by others in the industry. Combine the two, fill the content into the template, and finish!

In the end, the user portrait really becomes a "portrait", just to complete a necessary part of PRD. After the project is completed, the persona is thrown aside, and it is not iterated or used for reference.

It claims to be user-centered, but it is actually a subjective self-reference design that touches themselves.

2. The professionalism of user portraits

I believe that everyone has read "The Essentials of Interaction Design". This book can be said to be a classic textbook in the industry. The theory in it is also very specialized, but this theory is summed up through the author's countless industry experience. If the operator does not have enough knowledge and project practice, he will not understand the book.

Let's take a look at the relevant concepts and theoretical processes of user personas.

1. User portrait concept

First, let's be clear: Models represent complex phenomena through effective abstraction, emphasizing the salient characteristic relationships of the structures they represent, and de-emphasizing unimportant details.

Therefore, user model/user portrait/persona: refers to constructing a descriptive para-virtualized model about a user by using user research results.

The reason why it is said to be para-virtualized is that it is not a real person, but comes from the behavior data and motivation of many real users in user research, and is based on real and actual user behavior patterns.

Persona models can clearly explain user goals and help researchers understand user goals in specific situations. They are widely used in the field of interaction design. They are not used as precise metrics, but as a visual communication tool for decision-making and design communication.

2. Classic user portrait professional process

According to the content of the book, after doing user research and preliminarily sorting out the data:

  1. The interviewees are grouped according to their roles; the interviewees are classified and differentiated according to their roles.
  2. Identify behavioral variables; divide salient behaviors into groups of different behavioral variables, such as attitudes, abilities, and other dimensions.
  3. Correlate interview subjects with behavioral variables; determine the relative position of interviewees on behavioral variables.
  4. Identify important behavioral models; look for the aggregation of subjects, find significant behavioral patterns, and find logical connections.
  5. Synthesize features to clarify goals; close to observed behaviors to infer and define goals behind behaviors.
  6. Check for completeness and redundancy; fill gaps and remove duplication.
  7. Specify persona types; prioritize, identify major design goals, and identify primary and secondary personas.
  8. Further describe features and behaviors; add virtual user situations to make character models more realistic.

It can be seen that there are not many steps, and the content is very clear and easy to understand, but after the final process is completed, only steps 1, 2, and 8 are completely executed, and the most important behavioral data classification and focus in the middle process are just superficially done.

This is the same as "how many steps does it take to put an elephant in the refrigerator?" Completion of the process does not mean that the final output will be very efficient. 

Therefore, professional work should be completed by professional people.

3. Methods suitable for product designer/manager

Who doesn't know that majors are very important, but my company doesn't have a user research and UX designer position, I do it all by myself. "

Now back to the question I started with:
Since the external environment cannot provide these, but it is necessary, then we can only change ourselves, not according to the inherent process, we must make adaptive changes.
I have always been opposed to mechanically copying routines without according to the actual situation. This is actually a manifestation of laziness and thoughtlessness. Excellent product manager must use limited resources to find a suitable way for practical problems.
Below, I combine past experience to give you an executable persona model building method for product newcomers.

1. User Research

This is the first step, including questionnaires, personal interviews, scene observations, personal interviews, etc. Telephone interviews are not recommended, because you cannot see the user's emotional changes or physical movements. 

2. Cluster data

As the name suggests, the qualitative answers and quantitative data in the interview topics in the previous research are extracted and processed according to the method of cluster analysis.

Here is a method: KJ method.

Also known as the affinity diagram , it is a qualitative method to conduct classification and comprehensive analysis based on the similarity of collected data and information to establish consensus. The purpose is to hierarchize individual ideas and opinions, so as to show the common structure and theme. It can help the team organize complex ideas and information, find problems and needs, and find solutions to problems.

Operation method: The cards are classified according to the strength of the connection in the content; the cards with common points are grouped together and an appropriate title is added, and written on a card with a color pen, which is called "group title card". Cards that cannot be classified, each in its own group. Paste all the classified cards according to their affiliation in appropriate spatial positions, and use lines to connect the ones that are related to each other.

Because what we get is data under several topics, at this time, we need to group the data under a certain topic again to extract aggregated viewpoints. 

These topic types include, but are not limited to pain points, needs, scenarios, attitudes, ideas, and more.

The figure below is a simple illustration. Similar colors (answers) can be grouped together, and several small categories can be extracted.

 In fact, this step is summarizing behavior variable of in the previous classic process, but it is simplified here.

 3. Convergent combination

This step needs to compare the clustered data with the previously unsorted primary data, because the subject behavior variables cannot all be accurate to one person.

At this time, it is to classify the user groups studied and extract the most typical primary and secondary users.

For example, if 20 users are surveyed, 15 of them have roughly the same behavior, then the same behavior of these 15 users is the behavior of the main user, and so on. Among them, 13 users have the same behavior of another type. is one of the main user behaviors.

4. Summarize

When the user data is integrated into the main persona, content can be filled, as shown in the figure:

  1. Say the user's most painful point in one sentence, for example, "I don't know when to buy a mobile phone at the lowest price!";
  2. User avatar + demographic data, such as age, occupation, region, etc., you can use the statistics in the questionnaire;
  3. Write some character traits, don't write about cheerfulness and optimism, but what you observe, such as "Easily self-motivated";
  4. Explain the user's Internet usage habits, such as heavy users of TikTok;
  5. Character preferences, also writing observations or summaries, such as "listen to music while studying";
  6. It is to set problem scenarios or product usage scenarios based on the behavior patterns obtained by focusing, that is, what problems did the user encounter at what time and under what background, what did he do, what were the results and effects, what were the feelings, etc. . You can write this piece as a movie script;
  7. It is the content of the outline, and what pain points users encounter in order to achieve what goals.

Note that the above contents are roughly classified. We should make appropriate adjustments according to the actual work contents. Don't use a template to the end. The template is to provide ideas and reference, rather than for copying.

4. Ending

Product managers cannot replace the professional work of UX designers. They can only participate in it and learn their thinking. Instead of making some fancy templates and hard-covered content, it is better to summarize some real data.

Many people say that to be a product manager, you must be professional, and you must be specialized in what you do, and you must always consider users.

But in my opinion, the product manager is always responsible for the project and business, and to be a businessman who can make money, after all, what you do are commercial products, and to make money, you must put more energy on In terms of thinking, it is necessary to observe the market, find resources, track data, and pursue user value, instead of falling into the details and hiding in the excuse of "user experience". 

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