Using User Personas to Develop Customer-Facing Business Requirements


I remember the first time I was introduced to personas and the process of creating them.

My initial thoughts were what are personas, where do they fit into my project? A simple answer is that a persona is a fictional representation of who you think your ideal customers are. A mix of educated guess work and real user data helps put a name to your customers and bring them to life. In turn this enables you to meet their needs better and solve any problems you think they might face. All of this together helps you and your team keep focused on your project, product or service, while keeping the customer in mind.

For this project we were using the personas to inform the Customer Journeys and to develop the requirements from the perspective of the user or customer. They also have potential to be used if your end customer is not available to talk to or there are too many of them to talk to. Any projects which deliver customer facing functionality would benefit from persona work.

It is often worth distinguishing between users and customers before starting your personas. In many cases the user will also be your customer. However, a customer may not necessarily be a user – for example a company buying a system for their employees. Bear this in mind when developing your personas, you may need one for each.

The idea of writing numerous personas can sound like a simple task, providing an insight into your customers that you have never thought of. However you can easily miss the mark, creating an ideal user that is far from reality. My first experience of writing them has taught me a number of things to help you stick as close to your true user as possible.

Keep it Simple

It is very easy to get caught up in the person’s life, creating an elaborate back story for them in order to have the most detailed and insightful persona you can. Although personas require a certain level of detail, it is best to limit them to the following categories:

  • Demographics – where the person is from
  • Their background and work situation
  • Goals and challenges they face – how the product or service can help them?
  • Primary values and common objections – deal breakers when using your product

Overall it is best to stick to 3-5 personas. This should cover all your potential customers without getting carried away.

Don’t Get Personal

One of the hardest things was stopping myself getting too personal. It is very easy to forget that the persona is not you. Although you are creating this person, and a lot may be guess work the key part of it is that it is EDUCATED guess work. It is so important to distance yourself from the persona, try not to fill in any gaps you might have with your own opinion. It is not about how you think the user would behave, but how research and data has shown customer are likely to behave.

Do Your Research

As mentioned before personas can involve a lot of educated guess work, it is easy to get carried away writing about who you think your user will be but it is very import that you do your research. Use social media, interviews and conversations with colleagues to find real user data. Social media groups provide a great insight into user demographics, where interviews and conversations can give real goals and challenges customers might face. All of these should be used to confirm your thoughts and ideas.

Take Your Time

Once I got into the swing of writing personas timing became an issue. Don’t rush. Trying to write all your personas right away will create inaccurate and quite generalised personas. Try not to hurry the process thinking you know everything you need to know. Take your time gather all the information you need before you go jumping in. Make sure you have used every option you have available order to have the best possible information. Allow time for colleagues and team to validate the personas you’ve come up with, getting different peoples perspectives creates a more realistic persona.

Don’t do it on Your Own

Writing the personas was a process I started on my own. I found that this created a very one sided view of the user as I was so wrapped up in the process. It’s important to have more than one perspective on each persona. Bringing your team in on persona work Provides additional ideas as everyone brings different expertise and experiences to the table.

The whole persona writing process is incredibly insightful and greatly improved my view of the whole project. The aim of a persona is to accurately represent a customer, focusing the project as they give you the ability to:

  • Gain a greater insight into your user/customers
  • Focus on how the end result could benefit your user/customer
  • Identify complications quick with a persona in mind
  • Highlight the user/customer needs making it far easier to meet them
  • Understand user/customer expectations of your service/product

Personas are key to the success of your project, with an accurate persona you have to ability to produce customer focused products or services tailored specially to their needs, reducing potential problems or complications.





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