Using Personas for Writing User Stories

Using Personas for Writing User Stories

I typically have a long commute, and train travel is conducive to thinking about stuff; so recently, I started to think about personas and user stories.

I am a big fan of capturing business problems in the form of user stories. It forces you to think about not only the problem you wish to solve, but also who exactly has the problem.

So in this post, I'd like to share why I am convinced we should use personas in our story writing. 

Two Types of Personas

There are two types of personas: the buyer and the user.

The buyer persona is the person that is willing to pay for products because of the benefits and the return on investment. These are sometimes referred to as marketing personas.

The user persona is the person who will use the products to solve their problem, commonly referred to as the end user.

Sometimes the buyer and the user can be one and the same. For example, if you buy a cellular phone for your own use, you are both the buyer and the user. 

How Do Personas Factor into User Stories?

When it comes to writing user stories, it is important to understand what a persona is and what it is not.

The user stories are written as problem statements in the perspective of the person who has the problem that needs solving. The persona refers to the person with the problem. 

Creating a persona is to give a name and provide a story. The story will capture personal and professional characteristics, education, demographics, buying habits and motivation, behavior, likes and dislikes etc.

The idea is to have a realistic representation of your user base. 

A persona is an archetypical character as opposed to a stereotypical character. An archetype is a quintessential representation of the ideal user of your product.

The goal is to understand the personality and the typical characteristics of the person whose problem you are trying to solve so that it will provide you with a clearer understanding of your target audience. 

Giving it a name and a personality provides a venue for socializing the characteristics, the role and the target market segment. 

For example, if your persona was "Doctor Who" (a time traveler in a TV show), you would immediately have context as to the persona and perhaps the problems he faces.

If the persona was further clarified as the Eleventh Doctor, you would not only understand he is a time traveler, but his likes and dislikes based on the personality of the Eleventh Doctor.

This would not only allow you to create the best possible problem statement, but also further explore and provide the best solution possible that would address the Eleventh Doctor’s problem. 


Let’s say we have two user stories:

  • User story 1: As a user, I want to have a keyless entry to my home, because I keep misplacing my key.
  • User story 2: Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor) must have keyless entry to the TARDIS, because there is a chance that his companion might take the keys away. 

The user in the first story may be too generic. You may come up with a very different solution if the user was a young child coming home from school, a teenager, a family pet, the owner of the home, etc.

It may also change based on if it was a single dwelling or multi-dwelling abode. In this instance, you may decide to have several personas for your user base. 

In the second user story, the solution space is very specific to one doctor. If it were any other doctor, you may explore different options based on their specific personality, habits, likes and dislikes. 

In Conclusion

Understanding your personas and giving them a name will make story writing more interesting and relevant.

Calling them all “users” might become confusing if you have many types of users that desire a varied user experience.

For scaling agile in large organizations, creating personas become extremely helpful when multiple teams work on the same product and share the product backlog. 

Also, if you have an avatar for your persona, that's always nice, too.

Hope this was helpful, and happy story writing.


Dananthi is the agile coach for a large financial organization, where she helps teams transition to an agile project management framework.

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