Get a little personality
Photo by Atikh Bana

How user personas help craft better solutions

Digital transformation doesn't happen in a vacuum. Insights from real users can be the difference between success and failure.

One of the most valuable exercises for digital transformations is to take a step back and think about the end users. Digital-first experiences can sometimes mean creating a workflow based on legacy systems, or designing for SEO, not based on how actual people work. When user needs are considered in the design process, they are often fragmented or are in conflict, touching a majority of a system but interacting very differently. In theory all users have access to the same features and functionality but in reality have different needs and habits. Accommodating each user type, holistically, is crucial for adoption and success of any digital initiative.

This is where creating user personas can help. While the people may be fictional they are based on real-world counterparts with real problems that your brand can address. The goal of a persona is to put yourself in the user mindset and use the tool/website/system as they would. The more the persona is flushed out the easier it is to wear their imaginary shoes.

Personas are representative users; they’re based on real data collected from multiple people. While detailed personas are always best, in practice all great personas encompass these three elements to form a well-rounded user. A thoughtful persona is foundational to a great user experience.

1) Demographics
Creating a persona with basic demographic information is a wonderful start.  We love to give them names. “How would Alice do this?” is a great short-hand to get your team on the same page about who they are building for.

What’s their job title? A brand manager has different goals than a software engineer. How digitally savvy are they? Do they work at the office on their computer or on the road with their phone? How often do they use the system? Daily or once a month? Are they relatively junior and task oriented, or a strategic decision maker in an organization? Form a 360 degree view of your user.

2) Quote
What and how a persona communicates helps bring their needs to life, and in a way that is human. This personalizes the users main objective of not just working with the system but their daily tasks and what’s important to them.

Avoid quotes like “I need to process invoices faster.” and go for something like “I want to spend more time with clients.” This larger goal puts the onus on making the platform more efficient overall and implies they don’t want to spend time verifying what the system should do. This is a user goal not a system to-do.

3) Typical day
Outline the scenarios (the to-dos) that the user needs to accomplish in the new system coupled with how it relates to their roles. This enables marketers to put needs into perspective and provides step-by-step instructions that will be turned into use cases later for testing. Simply put, consider what the day-to-day of your user might be like and build experiences that make their lives a little easier.

Leveraging Personas
Once you have the personas, map their needs to the design or deliverable. Does the system do what they need? Is it easy for their level of digital expertise? Will they be overwhelmed with information not needed for the task? Will it help them perform better?

The desired outcome for any digital experience is for new users to embrace and adopt the new solution, even if it’s not primary to their larger responsibilities. Even a single persona may use your solution with varied frequency. Whether it is daily, or monthly, providing a user experience that is simple and pleasant will drive success.

Any given brand will have many different personas for marketing efforts – and even a few for the same initiative! Understanding user roles reveals solutions addressing multiple points of view. Revisiting this tool throughout the design and development process helps center the work around the user, their needs, and will ultimately drive success of any digital initiative.

Persona collage

Amerivents' personas used in their digital transformation project.

About Michael Tardif
Michael is founder and CEO of Sourcetop, a digital consultancy with a strong history of leading digital transformations for brands such as IBM, Nestle, Unilever, College Board, Northwell and Ferrari. His early career as an award-winning designer, culminating by working with Paul Rand, has grounded his approach to provide client-driven yet user-focused solutions.

About Sourcetop
Sourcetop is a business transformation partner for brands looking to build their digital ecosystems through User Experience & Design, Software Development and Platform Consulting. To learn more about how Sourcetop helps companies drive real business outcomes, visit