Persona for Offshore Web Development

What is Persona?

The concept of Persona has long been used in marketing as a tool to define users and user groups. Persona was introduced as a tool for Web and Application development by Alan Cooper, better known as the "Father of Visual Basic". For Business Analysts, Persona is an invaluable tool for helping bridge the gap between clients and developers.

It is important to realize that people are diverse. We must understand that all users, including those with disabilities use our products differently. This is because different people use different adaptive techniques, different interaction strategies, different experiences, different expectations and different preferences.

While Persona do not ideally help address all the differences, they do try and bring out all the common traits in the user group and define a personality based on extensive market and data research. Let us try to best understand a Persona with an example.

Persona Example
Rahul is a manager in a recruitment agency in Mumbai. He lost his eyesight at the age of 12 in an accident. This disability has made it difficult for him to achieve the degree of success that he has achieved. He being a very determined individual doesn't take no for an answer and has been working hard to improve his lot.

Besides his work, Rahul also volunteers in a disability rights organization called GIVE India.
Rahul uses the internet at home with the help of a screen reader to keep track of the news and to keep in touch with the people working in his domain. He has a fast internet connection at his office, but the slow dial up connection at home coupled with badly created websites frustrate him.

Check out these Steps to create a Persona.

Persona:Advantages for Offshore Development

Persona are helpful in understanding user requirements better - especially in Offshore Web Development. As business analysts working in an Offshore Development setup, it becomes imperative for us to create a bridge between client expectations and developer understanding of the project. Creating a persona helps a great deal in this task.

This is especially important in small to medium scale organizations which have only the voice of a customer to listen to while developing a project. Some of the major benefits of Persona are:

1. User Perspective

Developer will be able to create their applications and its benchmarks based on user preferences and not on their own. Persona helps gain a very clear user perspective. 

After learning and hearing the experiences of Rahul and his work, a developer will be able to realize that creating a website that is very complex or which has links placed very close to one another is not recommended. Also having really beautiful colors on the website will not be a very important requirement.

2. Story Telling

All our lives, we have loved to listen and create stories. Nothing helps clear user requirements better than creating a good story and telling it to the developers. Communicating the stories of our users to the developers and how the tackle their problems at work and away will help them get a real sense of their clients and their issues.

Nathan likes surfing the internet when at the office and he makes note of all the good sites he has visited during the time period. To ensure that he is able to access these files whenever he wants to he stores these files on Google docs.

3. Role Playing

 No story is complete without the characters and the characters that define a story help create a better understanding of the users to the development team.

If the users of a particular Plumbing Equipment Shopping Cart Website are considered, they are mostly men - technicians who are aware of the specifics of every product and who are buying for their clients and not themselves. A technician will buy what their clients require and no more. While designing a website for such a customer, we need to realize that Up Selling to technicians will not work. But providing discounts to returning customers will.

4. Crucial for Localized Products

With websites increasingly catering to smaller and more localized niches rather than the behemoths of ancient times, it is imperative that developers creating these websites are able to understand the real requirements of the end users. Developers will be able to create websites far more easily using Persona in such circumstances.

Amanda lives in a small village in Denmark and buys essential items online as it saves her the trip to the nearby city. The requirements of Amanda are completely different from those of Nathan who lives in New York. This will have to reflect not just in the products and design but also the business logic of the website. Cross selling of articles for Amanda will be different from cross selling for Nathan for instance. 

Persona for Business Analysts

Persona also adds a lot of value in communications for the business analysts and they help in clarifying a lot of product documentation and requirements documentation. They thus help ensure that:
1. Documentation is neither superfluous nor over specific.
2. Features are prioritized better.
3. Helps create a product that focuses better on persona's values.

Persona for Developers

Besides helping the business analysts, Persona also empowers the developers as they are able to:
1. Take good, reasonable implementation decisions easily
2. Understand requirements more easily with lesser specifications.
3. Raise concerns that are valid
4. Look forward to being able to find best opportunities.
5. Stay focused on real requirements.
6. Use common language of Persona for internal communication. 

Persona have been known to be implemented and used in various ways on the development floor. Some are printed, some on the charts and some hung on the green boards. Persona has also been used as screen savers and desktop backgrounds for employees to ensure that they keep in touch with client requirements. But its multifarious benefits have been reaped by one and all irrespective of its method of implementation.

Internet Business Analysis

India is slowly - very slowly becoming more internet savvy and even though it is an accepted fact that mobile phones will be ruling the Indian market, the internet still is a lucrative business. There are a huge number of start ups that are based on the internet presently and a even larger number that have already failed after trying to crack the difficult Indian market.

So there are some questions that every start up should be asking itself.  

1. What is the USP of your website?
The question to ask when starting up with any new website is similar to the one you would ask while starting a new business: What is it that the site brings to the table that is better, cheaper and easier than what already exists.

2. What is the prime objective of the website?
Being able to state the objective clearly in as less words as possible helps define a scope. This in turn helps both the website owner and the development team to have a very clear picture of what it is that they are creating.
Broadly, the internet consists of sites that do the following:
1. Search Engine
2. Collaborative
3. Informative
4. Information Gathering
5. Buy and Sell on the Internet

There is a difference between creating a search engine for real estate - and a site that provides information about real estate - and this needs to be kept in mind all the time while designing and developing the site.

3. What is the target audience of the website?
The internet helps in targeted advertising and targeted marketing. Demographics are important and they are becoming even more important on the internet. The best way to ascertain a target audience is to create a Persona. Read more about Persona in my next post.

The answers to these questions help clear a lot of doubts for both the development team and the client in any internet based web development project and also ensure successful project completion.