Personas Use Case Personas Use of Personas

Use Case Personas

The following is a post from the APG Team’s summer 2020 intern, Jaad Mohammed.

When using personas, the stakeholders of a project can feel empathy for the end-user. Ordinary market or user research data, as cold hard numbers [1], might lead you to narrow conclusions that could have many broad or even different meanings.

In the system design, employing a use case may have the same effect. In system design, a use case is a sequenced list of actions that a user must take to achieve a goal with a software application, service, or platform. Like our market research data, the use case presents a cold hard list, engendering little empathy for the user.

However, you can take that use case and integrate it with personas!

The use case provides the concrete steps for goal accomplishment, and the persona keeps your focus on the user and the overall user work tasks being accomplished.

Data-Driven Personas for Enhanced User Understanding: Combining Empathy with Rationality for Better Insights to Analytics
Data-Driven Personas for Enhanced User Understanding: Combining Empathy with Rationality for Better Insights to Analytics

The example below will illustrate this integrating a use case with a data-driven persona.

Suppose a tech company conducts a survey regarding customer satisfaction with their latest app, which is later going to be used for product improvement. The result of the survey found that people do not interact with the app profile section. Seeing this, the decision-makers could easily conclude that the interface needs redesigning and develop a use case for re-designing the interface.

Let’s now incorporate a persona, generated from the survey data by the steps in the persona creation process to get the following persona: “Sam, who is in his mid-30’s, loves to gain knowledge about how things work in his free time, but is not tech-savvy”.

Now the stakeholders could think, why would someone like Sam not interact with the apps profile feature to get some more profound understanding of its functions, why Sam would use the feature, and what would keep Sam from interacting with the feature.

In this scenario, the persona becomes the foundation from which to develop the use case for interface re-design or to even decide if the interface re-design is even needed.

To understand this, they can ask someone, fitting Sam’s characteristics, to role-play ‘Sam’ using the app [2]. The flow of interactions between this actor (playing Sam) and the app will be known as a use case scenario or use case story. This scenario could be recorded and used by other teams for future reference.

From this persona – use case integration, it might become clear that the profile feature is not only hard to find, but only a handful of users familiar with similar apps know to navigate to the profile section.

Now the decision-makers involved in product improvement can instruct the app developers to develop a use case with a clearer understanding of the user as a foundation to guide the development of the sequential steps in the use case.


[1] 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 Analytics. Data and Information Management. 4(1), 1-17.


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.

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