Becoming a true user advocate
Of course, as soon as I post about profiles, I read a great blog post about being sure you put real users in your head. While personas are helpful, they are only helpful to a point. It’s much more important to know your users personally and know real people that will let you know when you’ve missed the mark.
Speak for real users… not fake abstract “profiles”.
Represent real people, not the abstract notion of “users”. Rather than saying, “what users really want is…”, refer to your collection of specific user stories and talk about real people. When you bring up users, talk about specific people with real names and experiences. Too many companies use fake “profile” characters as a way to think about real users (e.g. “The typical user is a thirty-five year old sales manager with a four-year degree and two kids who uses a computer for…”). While that’s better than not thinking of users at all, it still puts both a physical and emotional distance between the company and real users. After all, it’s impossible to truly care about pissing off the “fake” 35-year old sales manager (even if you give the profile character a name, like “John”), but almost everyone starts to squirm when they think about a real person becoming upset with them.
When those around you talk about the abstract concept of “users” or “customers”, try to bring up specific real people whenever possible.
The entire post is well worth reading. I had to laugh a little at the thought of putting up pictures of users all over my office because I have a ton of pictures of my family all over my office. I will make room for some BMC Software users. Feel free to send me your picture.