Using personas in Technical Writing

Technical writers often face the challenge of creating complex technical content that is both accurate and engaging. Using personas can help technical writers overcome this challenge by providing a clear target audience.

In user experience (UX) design, personas are fictional characters representing the different types of users who might use a product or service. These personas are based on user research and are designed to help designers and other stakeholders understand the needs, goals, and behaviors of the different types of users.

Why technical writers should use personas

There are several reasons why technical writers should use personas in their work. Here are a few benefits of using personas in technical writing:

  • Personas can help you better understand your target audience. By creating a detailed profile of your ideal reader, you can gain insights into their needs, interests, and challenges. This can help you tailor your writing to their specific requirements.
  • Personas can make your writing more engaging. By writing for a particular persona, you can create more relevant and interesting content for your target audience. This can help you capture their attention and keep them engaged with your writing.
  • Personas can improve the effectiveness of your writing. By tailoring your content to your persona’s needs, you can ensure that your writing is more useful and relevant to your target audience. This can help you achieve your goals and deliver value to your readers.

How to Create a Persona for Technical Writing

To create a persona, start by considering the characteristics of your ideal reader. For example, what is their role, age, gender, and technical background? What are their goals, challenges, and pain points? By answering these questions, you can build a detailed profile of your ideal reader.

Here are some tips for creating a persona for technical writing:

  1. Start by brainstorming a list of characteristics for your ideal reader. Consider their role, age, gender, technical background, and other key factors that might affect their interests and challenges.
  2. Use this information to create a detailed profile of your persona. Include as many details as possible, such as their name, job title, and key characteristics.
  3. Use your persona to guide your writing. As you write, consider how your persona would respond to your content. Would they find it helpful, useful, engaging, and relevant to their needs?
  4. Refine your persona as needed. As you continue to write, you may discover that your persona needs to be adjusted to reflect your target audience better. Don’t be afraid to update your persona to make it more accurate and useful.

Once you have a clear idea of who your persona is, you can use this information to guide your writing. For example, suppose your persona is a busy IT manager new to a specific technology. In that case, you can focus on providing clear, concise explanations of key concepts and highlighting the benefits of using the technology in their work.

Here is an example of a (really simple) sample persona for technical writing:

  • Name: Lisa
  • Role: IT Manager
  • Age: 35
  • Gender: Female
  • Technical Background: Lisa has been working in the IT field for over 10 years, but she is new to the technology that your document is about. She has a strong understanding of general IT concepts, but she is looking for more specific information about this technology.
  • Goals: Lisa’s main goal is to learn more about the technology and how it can benefit her organization. She is looking for clear, concise information that will help her understand the key features and capabilities of the technology.
  • Challenges: Lisa is a busy manager with a lot of responsibilities, so she doesn’t have a lot of time to read lengthy technical documents. She is also new to the technology, so she may not understand some of the more complex concepts.

It’s a good idea not to only create this persona using this specific fields, you can also add a picture (it makes your persona more real and relatable), hobbies, or any other characteristics that may be specific to your ideal reader.

By creating a persona like Lisa, you can focus your writing on providing the information and explanations that will be most useful and relevant to her.  In addition, it can help you anticipate questions and figure out how to explain concepts in a way that makes sense for your audience.

Not only that, creating a persona prompts you to figure out different user journeys related to them and can even help you figure out the information architecture for your project.

Remember that, at the end of the day, you want to create a relatable “person” you can think about when writing.

Remember that one secret for effective writing (whichever type of writing) is to write having your audience in mind; this is easier said than done. But by giving your audience a face and personality, it becomes way easier. And this can, in return, make your technical writing more effective and engaging for your target audience.

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Victor De Vos

Thank you very much for your article.
Victor – Technical Writer

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