Monday, 19 January 2015

Generic Testing Personas

Personas are a tool to consciously adopt the habits and feelings of different people. When used during testing, they can help us to discover different types of problems.

Traditionally persona are developed for a specific application, each describing a rich background and context that shape the actions of user. I think there is value in using the same concept to model stereotypical software users for testing purposes alone.

Here are six generic testing personas that you could adopt when completing a testing task.

Manager Maria

Maria is a busy executive who interacts with the application between meetings. She is impatient and often not focused on her task, completing activities in haste. Maria will:

  • Stick to the quickest workflow through the application
  • Use shortcut keys
  • Fill in the minimum number of fields to get a result
  • Make mistakes in her efforts to get things completed quickly
  • Require fast responses and may repeat an action if the application takes too long to respond
  • Often be called to a meeting midway through a task

Hipster Hilary

Hilary likes to investigate new functionality and areas of the application that are outside of the mainstream. She is an early adopter and an avid explorer. Hilary will:

  • Investigate new features as soon as they become available
  • Explore all possible paths through a workflow to determine which she prefers
  • Frequently use areas of the application that are less popular
  • Have unusual data input compared to other clients e.g. different units of measure
  • Be accessing the application from an unusual browser, operating system or device

Careful Claire

Claire enjoys routine. She uses the same workflows each time that she interacts with the application, taking care to ensure that she is consistent and the information she provides is complete. Claire will:

  • Stick to popular features of the application
  • Notice and investigate any visible changes to these features, e.g. a new button is added
  • Complete every field possible when entering information
  • Be verbose when asked to enter notes of her own, e.g. a reason for editing a record.
  • Be patient with long response times

Sneaky Shirley

Shirley likes to break things. She knows about common security holes in software and likes to explores the applications that she uses to feel confident about their ability to protect her information. Shirley will:

  • Enter SQL and JavaScript injection in to application input fields 
  • Manipulate URLs to attempt to access private information
  • Violate constraints on input fields by entering invalid information
  • Try to generate as many error messages as possible

International Ioana

Ioana is on an overseas vacation. She periodically uses the application for specific reasons, e.g. to retrieve a piece of information or complete a single task. Ioana will:

  • Use the application outside of local business hours
  • Be accessing the application from multiple locations and time zones
  • Use a variety of browsers, operating systems and devices
  • Occasionally have poor network connectivity that is slow and unreliable
  • Be using a variety of keyboard layouts
  • Enter personal information that includes foreign language characters

Elder Elisabeth

Elisabeth is of an older generation with relatively little knowledge of computing. She has trouble understanding many software applications. Elisabeth will:

  • Use the application slowly, taking time to read each screen
  • Frequently use the 'Back' button to remind her previous information
  • Have the interface font of the application enlarged via browser settings or zoom
  • Require simple and clear interfaces in order to successfully complete a task
  • Seek out online help to assist her
  • Be using outdated technology including an older browser and operating system

Who else would you add to this list?


  1. I think also teenagers looking for affirmation and (very) young guys/girls should be included. I recently found out there are youtube users (on browser, no mobile app) around 4-years old...
    And should be useful a gender distinction: I think men and women notice different details/features.

    1. Thanks Massimo, these are interesting additions. I'm wondering what points you would put against each? I can think of some for a teenager, but I'm not sure it would be easy to personify gender differences?

  2. Great post! In my experience testers with development background and/or those who automate have a different mindset as well.
    Although these might fall into one of your categories already.

  3. Great post.
    I liked the "Sneaky Shirley".. Way too often she's not part of the team, but should..

  4. Thank you for this post. I am introducing testing with personae to a team I'm consulting with, and I provided a link to your blog as a resource. They got the concept immediately and were eager to try it.

    We're using personae a little differently here. Rather than developing the personae for our users (not so important, since we're pairing with business users), we're going to develop them for our customers. That means that the testers won't be able to "be" the persona when they test, but will have to build an exploration around how the system behaves for a customer. I found it very positive, btw, that one of the testers recognised business users she has paired with in your generic personae.

  5. Thanks for a wonderful post; will be using these personas as standard in my future testing :)

  6. This is a fantastic read Katrina. We have personas which we use to define how users interact with our product. But I do not remember to utilize them often in my testing. I will probably create my own set and start using them. Thanks once again.