Creating and using Personas is an important aspect of developing user stories. A Persona is an archetype of the average user of a system and was first developed and introduced by Alan Cooper. A Persona is an example of a type of person who would interact and use a system or product and is the type of person the software or product is designed for.
And important distinction to get out of the way first is that Personas are not Actors who are used in use case modeling. Though they seem similar Actors are roles that people play in a system. Where an Actor is usually defined in a few short sentences to describe what part they play in a system, Personas go more in-depth.
For Personas it is not uncommon for a page or two to be written about them, including information such as their name, Personalities, motivations and more often than not a photo. This is important because a Persona describes an archetypical instance of an actor. Where and actor would represent one person, a Persona would represent multiple actors.
It is important to develop multiple Personas, the number usually depending on how complex or how big a project is. This ensures that you have enough to explore all the various needs of the user base for your product. One way to help think up Personas is to hold a focus group with the potential users of your project or by talking with people who would have a good idea of what the end user will be, like your customer support staff.
A few other tips for writing effecting Personas is to discover them as a byproduct of your requirements investigation process (Personas). Another technique is to make your Personas specific rather than too general. If a Persona is too generic, then their needs with shift to meet the moment and this will not help you. You want flexible software not flexible users. Having specific goals will also help you see what your system needs to do and what it doesn’t need to do.
Persona are a valuable tool for anyone developing or writing user stories. It is very helpful when it comes to narrowing down what your clients need as well as help you determine what more development time should be focused on and what can be left secondary or ignored. It is important to make sure that the Personas vary to meet the different requirement, but make sure that they are each focused on a specific feature of your product and not spreading out to try and fit in everything.
Personas: An Agile Introduction, www.agilemodeling.com/artifacts.personas.htm