February 3, 2020

User personas explained with cats

What is a user persona, what could be a good user persona? There are a lot of definitions and templates available online, but the explanation I so far found working best is this...

Imagine you decided to sell cat trees. You buyer persona will be a human. However, your buyer will most likely be considering the needs of the actual user: the cat.

Do we really need a a user persona for a cat? Don't all cats just need a place to scratch, jump and hide? Not exactly. Big and heavy cats (like maine coons) need sturdy trees with large areas for stretching and lounging. Young kittens and elder cats need trees that do not require jumping over big distances. Finally, cats in multi-cat households need trees with enough space for playing and hiding for at least two to three cats.

Let's not forger the secondary user of the cat tree: the human. The human will need to transport, assemble and maintain the three. They need a product that is easy to assemble, will last for a while and degrade gracefully (because nobody wants pieces of the cat tree flying around the house after a week of use).

Designing a universal cat tree "for everyone" is just as hard (if not impossible) as designing a universal product. Let's not forget that persona is not a solution, it's documentation, a tool. It is an easy-to-digest summary of your research, helping you ground your product. Just like any tool, if you don't use it well, it will not bring you anything, but if you use it right, you might discover quite a lot of benefits.

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