It’s Getting Personal

Posted by Albert Gareev on Nov 23, 2015 | Categories: HeuristicsNotesWTToronto

Leaders in testing practice are constantly and actively looking for ways to test faster, more efficiently, and more creatively. They also look for ways to find the most relevant bugs, and to tell the relevant story. Personas seemed to be very promising idea, and in the past few years I saw it mentioned here and there.

I couldn’t find much experience reports on testing with personas though.


This is one of the best examples I’ve seen by far.
Source: Generic Testing Personas by Katrina Clokie.

Those that I could find were typically focused on the used functionalities, device/platform, and operational patterns. I see some value in simulation of such personas, especially in Usability Testing, but I also see exploration factor being lost.

I guess, for me it was the difference between simulation of personas and exploration of personas.

Simulation of a persona is like following a script.
Sure, if it says “uses shortcut keys” there’s a tester’s choice what to use and how.

But what about challenging of the assumptions?
What about exploration of the product’s behavior when you vary one of the persona’s parameters?
What about exploration of the users’ context?

Real life users don’t master a product in one day. They take time. They go through trial and error. They apply the product with their typical tasks and typical problems. They try their typical habits on the product and adapt to its limitations.

My current testing service is accessibility and accessibility compliance testing of the provincial government web sites. They are intended for all kinds of users with virtually all kinds of needs.

There are no “preferred by business” users – everyone is equally important! There’s no way to define a “target group” described by a persona/personas, that you’d primarily support.


A non-sighted user of software on MacBook.
Assisted by Screen Reader and operating keyboard and Braille device.
This picture is from OSX Accessibility. Their products are really for everyone!

As for the accessibility for users with special needs, there are categories and user groups. They seemingly would fit well with the concept of the personas.


Through my work experience – and work with real users – I’m discovering more dimensions.

  • Is it a new user of technologies or experienced one?
  • What about learning style? Emotions? Patience? Confidence?
  • Familiarity with the application and the domain?
  • Surrounding environment? Using inside, at home? Outside, in a public place? Outdoors?
  • What about conditions when / while the product is used? Rush? Stress?
  • What are the typical errors the users may make and encounter? What will be the impact? Recovery?
  • And so on..

With this knowledge I’m taking on a new approach to personas.

And I’m taking this experiment into Toronto Testing Meetup.

Stay tuned for the experience report.


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work by Albert Gareev is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.