There are a lot of “moving parts” when creating an app, i.e. what type of functionality, what does the user interface look like, the data structures, etc. Sometimes keeping track of all these details can get you “bogged down”.
One useful “tool” to keep things in perspective and provide context during design discussions is creating user personas. Basically a user persona is a fictional user of your app. They are someone you define to help you visualize or be in “their shoes” as users of your app to help you think thru their experience. Some other uses of user persona’s are for marketing purposes to help define market segments.
For our purposes, a user persona will be used to help visualize how these fictional users will interact with your app. For instance, on a project I’m currently working on, there are currently four user persona’s defined. By identifying these four users, there’s more context which leads to richer conversations in defining app functionality. As a simple example, all of these four user personas have profiles for their respective accounts in the app. However, depending on their role in the app, when their accounts are created, different information needs to be collected. That helps eliminate gaps from a data structure perspective and you can start to “see” how these users interact not only with the app but also with each other.
To drill down a littler deeper, for two of these roles, there’s a Manager-Subordinate relationship. And based on the Subordinates role as a buyer, s/he needs access to a corporate credit card. However, based on company policy, the Subordinate won’t have access to credit card information – only Managers. So within the app, when a Manager’s account gets setup, their account will need to collect credit card information. And when a Subordinate account gets created, their user account needs to automatically be setup to have charges put on their Manager’s credit card.
In this simple example, you can see how having these two personas helps visualize not only the data that needs to be collected but also how that data gets shared and used across users. Additionally, having user personas helps provide context when having design discussions on how the app should behave – and provide customer value. Finally, these personas, like real people, “live and grow”. As your app evolves, so too will these personas. Try creating user personas for your app.