Who is your Product?

Dos Equis beer's Most interesting man persona
Let’s start off with a quick exercise: try answering the following questions.

  1. What should be the key features of a food ordering app?
  2. List the qualities of an excellent restaurant waiter.

Unless you are a gifted product guru, you found it easier to answer the second question and that answer, also, is likely the better one.

To build a great product, you first need a clear picture of what your product should be; what it should look and feel like, what is the user experience, what are the features and workflows. This isn’t an easy process, these aren’t easy questions.
Intrinsically, products are alien to us; humans aren’t.
We can’t spec out great products as easily or correctly as we can characterize ideal people. Possibly a result of spending countless more hours interacting with people and tying those experiences to underlying human characteristics.

Taking advantage of this, personifying your product can be an interesting and effective way to define your product’s attributes and build a product that’ll hit all the sweet spots.

The creators of the NY Times mobile app were going for a “well-informed bartender”. He’s friendly, conversational, talks about recent events that interest you, and makes better conversation as he gets to know you.

At Opower, we want our product(s) to be a “trusted energy advisor”. He is engaging, deeply understands and informs you about your energy use, provides you actionable, timely and personalized tips to save energy, and proactively helps you out.

Nailing the ideal attributes of your product persona will guide your through the rest of your product decisions and definition. Cherry on top — your product’s persona is great for marketing and branding as well (remember the Mac vs PC ads?).

So, who is your product?