The Problem

Client feature requests are not always indicative of user needs. The contradicting needs and goals of clients and users can result in a bloated platform with redundant little-used features – as was the case with a global e-commerce company I was working with. Here, I describe my approach to building personas while maintaining the confidentiality of the project.

A global SaaS company in a niche industry needed to understand who their users were. With a growing user base and looming competition in the market, it was imperative to know who used the platform and why. In order to distinguish between data and anecdotal clients requests, it was clear the company needed user personas as a compass to guide product decisions and clarify the company’s position among the diversity of users they serve.

Why Personas?

User Personas are fictional people based on actual users. They are a tool for teams to understand the characteristics, goals, values and frustrations of users. This insight allows organizations to deliver more cohesive user experiences by creating empathy, focusing on issues, communicate and build consensus, prepare to make and defend decisions, and measure the effectiveness of their work (here’s a great resource on Personas).


A research-based approach was taken to develop the user personas. This was achieved in three stages:

  1. First, an online survey was filled out by users at different levels, job functions and areas of the platform across the world. A total of 188 respondents participated.
  2. A follow-up questionnaire with select respondents shaped one-on-one interviews with 15 people.
  3. The analysis involved comparing quantitative data gathered and theming open-ended survey and interview responses. Through this, a pattern about respondents’ age, gender, education levels, roles emerged. The users ranged in technical ability, often in relation to their age group or position.

Roll out + Iteration

Six personas were developed to represent the most common types of users. Personas spanned all levels of technical ability, seniority, function and responsibilities. Names, faces and characteristics were introduced to each team in small casual environments to support discussion. Unrolling the personas also presented an opportunity for education about user personas as a tool for employees. Continued support and a feedback loop were created to validate the new personas and to iterate them if needed.