Empowered Developers: Strength to Your User Persona!

Copyright Fusion Alliance

Agile principles put the power of quality and the definition of ‘enough’ in the hands of developers. Yes, the Product Owner and Stakeholders get final say, but the best way to optimize your developers’ strength is to give them the power to make decisions about how to best fulfill a User Story. The Agile principle is clear: “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

My interpretation of this principle is that empowering a team allows them to create beyond your expectations. One oft-overlooked empowerment tool is the User Persona. Here is an example developed by our User Experience team:

I’VE HEARD OF THIS USER PERSONA…

A user persona is simply a portrait of the user who is behind the current set of User Stories, or who inspired an Epic. It can be as simple as a sketch, name, occupation, and primary motivation, or as complex as a two-page biographical breakdown with full color glossies and cultural implications. The most important thing for your developers is that they have a clear guide to WHO they are developing for.

WHY IS A USER PERSONA IMPORTANT?

Developers are smart and user savvy. By understanding the source of the need and the destination of their code, they will write a better application. They may anticipate more needs than the product owner or stakeholders could interpret for them through a User Story. More perspectives on the same need usually produce better results. Also, developers appreciate the freedom and insight that comes with direct access to the primary source material, the user. It’s simply empowering.

HOW DO I DEVELOP A USER PERSONA?

There are a few ways to develop a persona. The simplest way is to ask those who have gathered requirements or are working on the user interface, or, if they’ve already developed them, marketing product managers. The user persona is a foundation-builder for those disciplines. You must match those personas to the current work stream and keep them relevant.

The next best way is to gather stakeholders, content strategists, UX developers and product owners together in a room with a stack of magazines and a whiteboard.  Then, agree on some simple personas for the current release or the next leg of the roadmap.  Each should include, at minimum:

  • A face: from magazines, image searches, or drawn by hand – a clear, understandable face that represents the user
  • A name: for easier reference and to develop affinity
  • An occupation
  • What they would use the tool for
  • How they would use it
  • Where they would use it

HOW DO I GET THE TEAM TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE USER PERSONA?

All information radiators should be clearly visible from almost anywhere in the development room. Whether you use whiteboards, digital screens or post-it notes on drywall, the user persona should be easy to read from 4 feet away. Also, make the personas easy to replace. It’s important to stay relevant to the current backlog.

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