What are Personas and How Can They Improve the Design of Your SaaS Platform?


It’s easy to fall into the trap of designing software for a single user: yourself. But your software as a service platform is designed to be used by a group of people who, very often, are quite dissimilar to you and your team. Creating personas helps your team avoid this problem by involving the representative user throughout the design and development process.

A persona is a proxy for a group of users. It’s a one-page document that provides a consensus for your team that describes the behaviors, motivations, and goals for different types of users. Your SaaS platform likely has multiple personas--groups of people who use your service but have unique behaviors, motivations, and goals. The idea is for your team to reference the persona every time you make a user experience decision.

The personas you create as a user experience document differ from the personas you might receive from a market research firm. Personas created as the result of user experience research are derived from qualitative research methods and contain information specific to your product.


What Information is Included in a Persona?

Personas will vary depending on your product. Common items include:

  • Name

  • Photo

  • Demographic information

  • What’s important to that persona

  • What motivates that persona

  • Goals that relate to your product

  • Behaviors that will affect when and how they use your product

  • A quote from your persona that provides a snapshot of their goals, preconceptions, and/or motivations


How Do You Create a Persona?

Personas are a result of qualitative research. Typical methods include ethnographic studies, one-on-one user interviews, surveys, and diary studies with actual or representative users. Use these research methods to uncover your target audience’s day-to-day activities, preferences, goals, and behaviors. Focus survey and interview questions on past examples, as people are terrible at speculating what they might do in a given situation. Have participants walk you through their most recent experiences using your product, your competitor’s product, or how they perform similar tasks offline.

By taking a deep dive with follow up questions, you start to uncover:

  • What’s important to your users

  • What behaviors are common among your target audience

  • What information is critical in performing tasks and how users currently go about performing tasks or solving problems

  • What they know and don’t know

  • What challenges or obstacles they face


How Do Personas Help Your SaaS Platform?

1. Personas are one of the first steps in creating user research and other types of documentation for your digital product. They will inform scenarios (reasons why your user considers/uses the product in the first place), task analysis, customer/user journeys, and product requirements.

2. Personas prevent your team from bloating your product with useless features. Teams can get sidetracked with features that seem exciting, but don’t actually solve a problem for their target audience. Personas force the team to use resources wisely by asking whether or not this feature would be critical for one of the product’s personas. Personas are a great way to achieve consensus on how to move forward.

3. Personas force you to conduct qualitative research with representative users. Beyond creating personas, your team will gain additional insights to answer:

  • How do users currently go about performing tasks or solving problems?

  • How can your product help them better perform those tasks or solve those problems?

  • How can your digital product better align with the behaviors you’ve uncovered?

  • How can you help your users achieve their goals/what’s important to them?

  • What opportunities or challenges have you uncovered?


Never created personas? Our user experience workshops teach your teams how to create personas based on primary research. Contact us to learn how they can be used to increase your sales and improve customer retention.





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