Improve your exploratory testing by incorporating personas (with examples)

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When your user base is the size of a small country, how do you ensure you're not missing the nuances of their diverse needs?

Exploratory testing lets you see the software from the user's perspective, but with diverse users, maintaining effectiveness is challenging. Persona testing enhances exploratory tests by focusing on unique user experiences, allowing you to wear multiple hats and understand the software through various user perspectives.


Continue reading as we explore what persona-based testing is and how it makes your exploratory testing even more user-centric.

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What are user personas in Exploratory Testing?

User personas are descriptions of different user profiles. They include characteristics, behaviors, goals and needs that influence their perception and usage of the software. 

Using personas adds a human touch to testing by mimicking real-life user interactions, which helps uncover critical flaws and, consequently, enhance the software's quality.

By using personas in testing, you can better understand how different users interact with the platform. This helps you identify potential issues that may not be obvious. For example, if one persona represents an older person who isn't great with technology, it helps us spot where the software might be confusing or hard for people like them and, therefore, we will be able to adapt it to better fit the customers’ experiences.


How to build user personas and examples

By following these steps and tips, you can create user personas that serve as valuable tools for guiding exploratory testing, ensuring a more comprehensive approach to quality assurance.

Step 1: Get to know the real users

Start by understanding who the users of your software are. Participate in user interviews, or customer meetings. Connect with other teams that might have already developed their own user personas and collect information regarding product analytics and customer behavior.

Once you gathered user data from available sources (interviews, surveys, analytics, and customer interactions) and you understood the real user behaviors and needs, you should:


Step 2:  Craft the persona profiles

For each user segment, develop a detailed persona profile. Include information that is relevant such as:

       🗺️ Demographics: Age, gender, occupation, location.
       📚 Background: Education, professional background, and relevant personal details.
       🎯 Goals: What the user aims to achieve by using the product.
       🧐 Challenges: Potential obstacles or pain points the user might encounter.
       💭Behaviors: Typical actions, preferences, and decision-making factors.

We can’t stress enough the importance of aiming for realism. The more accurate and representative your user personas are, the more effective they will be in guiding exploratory testing efforts.


Step 3: Use the personas to inspire your charters

User personas serve as a foundation for constructing test charters, which are mission statements that guide you during exploratory testing. When creating test charters based on user personas, you tailor your focus to specific scenarios and behaviors that align with the characteristics of each persona.


Tips for an even better process:

  • Collaboration is crucial

To enhance collaboration and effectiveness in the development process, it is important to establish effective communication channels across teams. This facilitates the dissemination of personas, ensuring a shared understanding of user needs. Additionally, gathering feedback from product managers, designers, and developers is essential to guarantee the accuracy and relevance of personas.

  •  Prioritize personas

Identify the personas that represent the most significant user groups for what you offer. Focus on the ones that are likely to encounter unique challenges or have specific requirements that you can solve with your product/service.

  • Integrate into your testing strategy

Tailor test cases and scenarios to address the specific needs and behaviors of each persona. Don’t forget that people are always changing, which means the customers are also always changing. Therefore, you should keep adapting your creations to these changes.


User personas examples:

Exploratory testing personas

User Personas for accessibility testing 

User personas can also act as a great tool for accessibility testing. In this case, accessibility personas are fictional characters that represent users with various abilities and disabilities. These personas help you understand the diverse needs, preferences, and challenges of users with permanent or situational conditions. By using accessibility personas in your exploratory testing, you can enhance the creation of more inclusive and user-friendly experiences.

Let’s understand what the permanent and situational conditions are.

  • Permanent conditions involve individuals that are facing unique challenges such as: migraines, pronounced sensitivity to light, sound, or odor, poor impulse control, the impact of medical trauma, disorders, mobility difficulties and blindness. These special aspects can further shape their experiences when interacting with your software. 

  • Situational conditions encompass temporary challenges that individuals may encounter, mirroring the experiences of those with permanent constraints for a specific duration. These scenarios include limited literacy about a specific area, a language barrier hindering comprehension, intermittent or limited internet connectivity affecting real-time data access, users transitioning between devices, and high stress or fatigue temporarily diminishing cognitive capacity.

While permanent conditions are enduring and persistent, situational conditions are temporary and context-dependent. Creating personas for both requires a comprehensive understanding of user needs and the flexibility to accommodate a diverse range of experiences.


Let’s see some accessibility persona examples:


Sight impaired user

This user has difficulty in quickly seeing large amounts of information and struggles with poorly designed interfaces that don't respond well to magnification.

Key points

  • Relies heavily on screen magnification to navigate and read content.
  • May use high-contrast settings for better visibility.
  • Likely to take longer to explore interfaces due to magnification adjustments.


Severely sight-impaired user

This user faces challenges with non-descriptive or missing labels and may find complex navigation structures difficult to comprehend.

Key points
  • Navigates primarily through keyboard shortcuts and screen reader commands.
  • Relies on spoken feedback for understanding the interface.
  • Needs support for ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) landmarks and attributes.

Older user with multiple conditions
The user may face challenges with fine motor skills, which impact mouse precision. He also may struggle with small fonts and cluttered layouts.

Key points
  • May have slower response times and require larger text size.
  • Prefers simplified interfaces with intuitive navigation.


User with rheumatoid arthritis
This user had difficulty in using small buttons or controls, and finds it hard to perform repetitive or fine motor tasks.

Key points
  • May use keyboard shortcuts to avoid excessive mouse usage.
  • Prefers interfaces with large clickable areas.


Autistic user
This user is overwhelmed by complex or unpredictable interfaces and struggles with unclear instructions or ambiguous language. He needs options to reduce sensory distractions and clear design.

Key points
  • May have a preference for routine and predictability.
  • May find sensory overload in interfaces with too many animations or distractions.

Dyslexic user
This user has difficulty reading long paragraphs or complex sentences and struggles with dense or cluttered layouts.

Key points
  • May benefit from text-to-speech features.
  • Might prefer customizable font styles and background colors.

Profoundly deaf user
This user needs captions for all multimedia content and visual alternatives for important auditory information. He may miss critical alerts or notifications and may not be able to access information that is conveyed through audio alone.

Key points
  • Relies on visual cues and captions to understand content.
  • May face challenges with audio-only instructions.

Source: Accessibility Personas Simulator proposed by UK Government Digital Service (GDS)


Benefits of accessibility personas in Exploratory Testing

Accessibility personas allow you to explore areas you wouldn’t cover by using regular personas only. After all, our world is composed of many, diverse people, and all of them can be potential customers. It’s important to think about everyone when it comes to polishing your product.


By creating accessibility personas, you will be able to: 

1.  Make your software usable for more people

Accessibility personas play a pivotal role in guiding focused testing efforts, facilitating a meticulous exploration of potential issues related to diverse abilities they may have.

Ex.: Consider an accessibility persona representing a user with visual impairment who relies on screen readers. By incorporating this persona into testing charters, you can precisely identify challenges related to screen reader compatibility, ensuring that the product's interface and content are seamlessly interpreted and navigated by users with visual impairments.


2.  Embody the diverse needs of your users

Conducting realistic simulations using accessibility personas immerses you in authentic user scenarios, fostering a better understanding of actual interactions from diverse people. This approach goes beyond conventional testing with regular personas by embodying the diverse needs of users with varying abilities


Ex.: An accessibility persona representing a motor-disabled user might use speech recognition software. Simulating this scenario allows you to understand the challenges faced by users with motor impairments and ensure a more accurate assessment of accessibility and user journey.


3. Be more precise while finding bugs

The use of accessibility personas streamlines the process of finding bugs and prioritizing them based on their potential impact on users.


Ex.: During exploratory testing, imagine a user with auditory impairments who relies on captions. When testing reveals discrepancies in captioning, you can prioritize this issue, recognizing its significant impact on users with hearing disabilities. This bug prioritization, facilitated by accessibility personas, ensures that critical issues are addressed promptly.


Adding depth to Exploratory Testing with user personas

Bringing user personas into your exploratory testing can really change the game. It's like stepping into your users' shoes to experience your software as they would. This approach isn't just about catching glitches; it’s about understanding how real people interact with your product.

By applying personas, you're not just testing; you're empathizing. You start to see what might puzzle or please different types of users. It's a step towards building software that doesn't just work well but feels right to those who use it.

Xray Exploratory App for exploratory testing

Thinking about giving your testing process a boost? Check out what the Xray Exploratory App can do for you. Our tool:

  • Helps you keep track of what you find during testing;
  • Organizes your sessions;
  • Gives you a clear picture of how your software is doing;
  • It's user-friendly;
  • Fits into the testing methods you already use.

This means less time spent on the tedious parts of testing and more on the actual testing work. It’s not just about delivering faster; it's about making your testing process smarter and getting better results.

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