I love figuring out what makes people tick. It’s a beautiful complement to being a Product Manager, and is something I do with every UX exercise I undertake. I like watching people interact with the people and things in their lives and seeing if I can divine why the interaction is pleasing: is it efficient? does it remind them of something pleasant? do they immediately understand what they are supposed to do?
Which is why I love personas so much. If you’ve never used them, personas briefly describe your typical users. They put on paper imagined scenarios between users and your product. You take a few key customer types (say, new customer and existing customer) and give them a backstory. Figure out what makes them tick, what their previous experiences were like, why they like what they like. Then you use this information to infer what they would want from your product. If your target market is the elderly, then frequent references to technology may turn them away from your product, whereas references to common household items, for example, would work well.
Once you have your personas created, print them out and post them prominently. Make sure the group gets to know New User Nancy and Exisitng Customer Edward. Once they feel familiar, you’ll find the team begins to advocate for them. You’ll know you’ve hit the mark when someone says, “…but if we do X, Nancy won’t know how to do Y any longer.”
As for the persona template, there are tons of them out there. I’ve used many, created many, and abandoned more than a few. The one thing I do find helpful across the board is a template with a photo; it helps make the persona more real. As I type, I’m looking at Nicole, Anthony, and Isaac–my current batch of personas–and even though they have photos culled from the web, I feel like I know them. They are the reason I create software.