Persona Research Personas

Got too many personas? This approach can help!

representing too many
Creating Manageable Persona Sets from Large User Populations

In this research, colleagues and I address a relatively new issue in the field of personas, too much data resulting in too many personas.

Creating personas from actual online user information is an advantage of the data-driven persona approach. However, modern online systems often provide big data from millions of users. These user display vastly different behaviors. This can result in possibly thousands of personas representing the entire user population.

We present a technique for reducing the number of personas to a smaller number. The technique efficiently represents the complete user population. It is also more manageable for end users of personas.

We first isolate the key user behaviors and demographic attributes, creating thin personas. We apply an algorithmic cost function to collapse the set to the minimum needed to represent the whole population.

We evaluate our approach on 26 million user records of a major international airline, isolating 1593 personas. Applying our approach, we collapse this number to 493, a 69% decrease in the number of personas.

Our research findings have implications for organizations that have a large user population and desire to employ personas.

Read full article

Jansen, B. J., Jung, S.G., and Salminen, J., and (2019) Creating Manageable Persona Sets from Large User Population. ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI2019) (Extended Abstract), Glasgow, United Kingdom, 4-9 May. Paper No. LBW2713.

Read more persona research

All published works:

Read more about data-driven personas

What is a Data-Driven Persona?

Introduction to Data-Driven Personas

Giving Faces to Data by Creating Data-Driven Personas

Benefits of Data-Driven Personas

Explaining Data-Driven Personas to End Users

Do your think your personas are stable? They probable aren’t!


By Jim Jansen

Dr. Jansen is a Principal Scientist in the social computing group of the Qatar Computing Research Institute, and a professor with the College of Science and Engineering, Hamad bin Khalifa University, and an adjunct professor with the College of Information Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University. He is a graduate of West Point and has a Ph.D. in computer science from Texas A&M University, along with master degrees from Texas A&M (computer science) and Troy State (international relations). Dr. Jim Jansen served in the U.S. Army as an Infantry enlisted soldier and communication commissioned officer.