From flat file to interface: Synthesis of personas and analytics for enhanced user understanding

The persona approach is a communicative design technique for understanding users.

With increasing access to analytics data, personas are more and more generated from online user statistics using big data and algorithmic approaches.

This integration offers new opportunities to shift personas from flat files of data presentation to that of interactive interfaces for analytics systems.

We illustrate this transition towards the concept of “persona as interface” with a persona analytics system, Automatic Persona Generation (APG).

In pushing advancements of both persona and analytics conceptualization, development, and use, the APG system presents a multi‐layered “full‐stack” integration. APG affords three levels of user data presentation, which are (a) the conceptual persona, (b) the analytical user metrics, and (c) the foundational user data. The result is a better tool than either persona or analytics along for user understanding.

Moving to a “personas as interfaces” approach offers the benefits of both personas and analytics systems and addresses some of the shortcomings of each. We provide results from user experiments of and use cases for APG the research article linked below.

Jansen, B. J. Jung, S.G., and Salminen, J. (2020) From Flat File to Interface: Conceptual Synthesis of Personas and Analytics for Enhanced User Understanding. 83rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology. Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 23-28 October 23-28. 1-11.


APG Wins Qatar Foundation Innovation of the Year 2020 Award !!!


APG Wins Innovation of the Year 2020APG Wins Innovation of the Year 2020

The Qatar Foundation EMPOWERING INNOVATION 2020 Virtual Awards Ceremony and Innovation Showcase was held (virtually) 14-15 October in Doha, Qatar. As mentioned by Dr. Richard O’ Kennedy, VP QF RDI, “Innovation is an absolute necessity in achieving national and global sustainability developmental goals. It is vital for modern societies to function efficiently and to address today’s complex challenges ….”

We are pleased to announce that the APG Project earned The Innovation of the Year Award 2020!

Thanks go out to out the GREAT local Qatar-based stakeholders and collaborators — Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, AJ+, AJ+ Arabic, AJ+ Español, AJ+ Français, Qatar Airways, and the Qatar Foundation. It is YOUR collaboration that made this project possible!

If your organization is interested in working with the APG Team on cutting edge research, please reach out to us by contacting the project leader, Jim Jansen at

The Innovation of the Year Award  goes to the team that developed an invention or creative work that was licensed out exclusively for commercialization purposes between 1 January 2018 to 30 June 2020.
For QF RDI, licensing QF IP to existing or start-up companies, is the hoped-for goal. That is because it is only in commercial implementation that society is positively impacted. For the winning invention or creative work to be successful, it had to meet certain
standards, namely, having IP protection in place, being geared towards and applicable as a product or service, having some disruptive aspect, and creating impact for Qatar.


Personas for Book on Data-Driven Personas

For our forthcoming book, “Data-driven Personas”, we have three personas that we are using to design the book’s content.

Personas for Data-Driven Personas
Personas for Data-Driven Personas book.

Data-Driven Personas
by Bernard J. Jansen, Joni O. Salminen, Kathleen Guan, and Soon-Gyo Jung
Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and Georgetown University

Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics
Morgan & Claypool Publishers

Jansen, B. J., Salminen, J., and Jung, S.G. (2020) Data-Driven Personas for Enhanced User Understanding: Combining Empathy with Rationality for Better Insights to AnalyticsData and Information Management. 4(1), 1- 17.