Vary your exploratory testing by using personas and roles to stimulate test ideas and avoid missing important users. 

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Generate test ideas with user role play

Try a different approach to exploratory test sessions by adopting different personas and using your software from that persona's perspective (but, don't worry, getting into character is optional). Test various personas to stimulate ideas about how your software will — or already is — being used.

Sound interesting? Take a look at a ‘persona’ example.

Meet Leanne

Meet Leanne. She is always travelling with her MacBook Pro and works remotely. She always gets frustrated when an application performs slowly or doesn't respond, particularly if it leads to a loss of work when the wifi drops out.

By taking on Leanne's persona you can immediately start to come up with test ideas. For example, testing security due to the remote nature of Leanne's work or looking at application performance with a poor network environment.

By the way, we can’t take credit for the persona testing idea as we've adopted it from Elisabeth Hendrickson (Explore It!, p63-64).

Introducing persona & role cards

When we've run our own test sessions, we found it useful to write the personas down on cards, along with user roles - which is why we've developed our Persona Card and Role Card blueprints to help.

How it works

Set up a deck of persona cards and a deck of role cards. Select a card from each deck and look at the combination to generate ideas for your test session and role play. Repeat with different card combinations to create more test ideas. Not all card combinations will be valid and some can be skipped.


Creating your persona cards

Personas are created by data-driven research, looking at groups of common user traits and demographics.

For example, consider qualifications, training, work skills, computer and device use, including operating systems, web browsers, mobile.

Use our persona card blueprint to help you identify all the relevant personas associated with your user story. To humanize and help the team relate to a persona, use a name and photo.

Pro tip: You can make up personas but this often creates a Frankenstein user of bias and stereotypes, with no connection to reality.

completed leanne card

Creating your role cards

Role cards are used to understand what problem a user is trying to solve or task they want to complete.

Use data-driven research to create roles: customer surveys, interviews, job descriptions, job adverts - but speaking to real people is always best.

Use this role card blueprint to help you identify all the relevant roles associated with your user story, including role responsibilities and pain points.

Pro tip: a single card doesn't need to represent a job title or position. If the role card is getting full, you can always break down into smaller roles.

completed role card

In a nutshell

Job/user roles:

  • are what they are trying to achieve with this software, their objectives

  • are about the functionality side (user experience)


  • are meant to be created out of statistics, but be careful that they are representative and don’t leave important people out

  • are the environment for your ideas


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