Data-Driven Personas at JSTOR

I headed a strategic initiative to create data-driven personas that could be used by not just within the UX team and Agile development teams, but by business line owners and other stakeholders.


 I pioneered an innovative persona framework, "persona families", that would allow us to maintain archetypal users and high-quality deliverables while also allowing us to develop new personas in response to project needs.

Our organization had a wide range of products targeted to very different users with different workflows and sometimes conflicting goals, and we needed better tools for considering users in product strategy and development. The User Experience team also needed to communicate what we learned about user behavior from our user research in an actionable, easy-to-understand way. Personas were a powerful tool for that, but had to be built and socialized carefully.

Initial persona families were defined based on the organization's long-term goals as well as existing site demographics; these were groups of personas that all shared the same basic scholarly motivation, although individual family members may differ by essential variables such as research discipline or where they are in their research career.

I created an extensive project plan that helped me manage the process of collecting research, designing, socializing and leveraging the personas. The project laid out a three-step adoption model wherein personas were progressively used to 1)  create a common ground of understanding and communication 2) provide a foothold into truly understanding our users and their motivations 3) drive product strategy.

To put legs on such a large project, and to create buy-in and trust from roles outside of User Experience, I put together a highly collaborative team with members from units throughout the organization, whose roles ranged from developers all the way up to vice president. This team helped me build the personas as well as begin leveraging them in projects throughout the entire organization.

I ensured the personas were solidly backed by user research. For two personas, I consolidated data from over 40 different interviews, three user workshopping sessions, analytics data, user support data, and literature reviews. Conducting collaborative affinity diagramming workshops with this data gave us a solid and holistic picture of the user, enabling us to build personas that were trustworthy and reliable.

The personas are flexible and powerful enough to be used throughout a wide range of deliverables. Deliverables included, but were not limited to:

  • Persona family portraits, including branding and visual design of individual families
  • Individual persona posters and workflows
  • Feature prioritization matrixes

An experience map created to communicate our understanding of information-seeking behavior. This breaks down a persona's information-seeking behavior strategies and provides example workflows of each strategy

Additional example deliverables can be provided on personal request - please contact me.

An experience map created to communicate our understanding of information-seeking behavior. This breaks down a persona's information-seeking behavior strategies and provides example workflows of each strategy
An experience map created to communicate our understanding of information-seeking behavior. This breaks down a persona's information-seeking behavior strategies and provides example workflows of each strategy