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Product development for B2B web applications: using ad-hoc personas to design a data product
Product development for B2B web
applications: Using ad-hoc personas to
design a data product
Toby White, CTO, Timetric
Toughbyte after-work at LocalBitcoins: 2016-08-11
B2B App Development
➔ You don’t need high numbers of users to make money
◆ You are not likely to have loads of users (at least initially) so you won’t have lots of usage data (and
thus fewer insights about how people use / would like to use your app)
➔ If it’s valuable enough to pay for, your app is core to your users’ business
◆ They are not going to want you to bugger around with it too much (A/B testing is right out; so is
trying to make constant minor tweaks and observe their effect.)
➔ Your app has value because your users’ time is valuable, and you’re helping them
make more effective use of it.
◆ They are (mostly) not going to want to spend their time having nice open-ended conversations
about how you could improve your app.
B2B App Development: no data
● Little or no usage data;
● Little or no useful feedback on changes;
● Little or no chance to get even anecdotal feedback.
But product & UX development needs to be driven by data to be any good.
● Which page design is better? Try it out.
● How do people react to this page? Watch them.
● Which feature should we prioritize? Watch how people currently use the app, or
What can we do if this isn’t possible?
“The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic
representations of your key audience segments for reference. These
representations should be based on qualitative and some
quantitative user research and web analytics. Remember, your
personas are only as good as the research behind them.”
“[...] persona work yields a much deeper understanding of why customers do
the things they do and what they expect from an organization within any given
context. This knowledge about customers' motivations (the why) makes it
possible to create innovative solutions, products, ad campaigns, and customer
support (the what) that cater to customers on a personal level.”
What can personas do?
● Business Goals
what does success look like?
● Brand Goals
How do we want our customers to perceive our brand?
● User Experience Goals ✓
What problems do we want to solve for our customers? – expressed in their terms
● Key Differentiators ✓
What can we offer our customers that no one else can?
● Value Propositions ✓
Why should our customers care?
But what if you’ve got no data?
- “Ad-hoc personas trade traditional data collection for in-house knowledge”.
and see also “proto-personas”, eg http://uxmag.com/articles/using-proto-personas-for-executive-alignment
Originally a way to provide UX a voice at the table:
“Guide your execs away from traditional market segments, instead grouping the users
by their needs”. (ie, how do you let the PHBs feel like they’ve have their say!)
In other words - generate personas by incorporating intuition instead of data!
Ad-hoc persona methodology (30 sec overview)
As a group:
1. Collectively identify usecases (and corresponding job-roles)
2. Cluster related use-cases together into groups
3. Look for patterns in the groups of use-cases
4. Call each pattern a persona, and give it a name, a likely role, a biography ...
Timetric/GlobalData “Intelligence Centers” are:
- Web-based portals for industry intelligence; news, deals, company information,
market sizing databases, macroeconomic data & forecasts, project trackers,
regulatory information, you name it …
- Used for strategic market insight, market development,
business development planning, …
- Used by marketing managers, CEOs, research analysts,
sales managers, strategic consultants, …
Personas for a data product
… repeat for lots more sectors,
particularly across FS, Healthcare,
Consumer, Tech, Infrastructure.
1. Group of ~20 people from across the whole company.
- As many products & internal roles as we could cover: basically, anyone we could drag into one room at the same time
Generate ~200 individual usecases, grouped into ~30 needs/wants
Time: 2 hrs meeting (x20 people), + a few days preparation/summarization.
2. Group of 4 people.
- process leader, product manager, software head, CTO
Take ~30 needs/wants, find patterns representing 8 emergent personas
Time: 2 hrs meeting (x4 people) + a day prep/summarization
3. Same group of 4 people.
Review and prioritize personas.
Time: 2 hrs meeting (x4 people) + a day prep/summarization
Ad-hoc persona process results
8 established and prioritized personas, each with a list of required tasks
1. Fred Functional Manager
2. Prunella Progressive Researcher
3. Iain Integrator
This allows us to prioritize feature requests according to the weighted average of
persona priorities that will feel the benefit.
i.e. it tells us what we should spend our effort building (and what we should not bother
It has also lets us better focus our:
● Marketing collateral
● Sales pitches
● And product design
And this has resulted in
★ Increased product usage
★ Strongly positive anecdotal feedback
★ Higher renewal rates
★ Higher revenue
New product designs are being directly led
➔ tasks the user needs to accomplish
➔ prioritized by importance
Alan Ayoub: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanayoub
- Suggested the Ad-hoc personas approach & led the persona-development process
- Provided some of these slides
Emily Taylor: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/emily-taylor-a197774b
- Drove much of the task-focussed product redesign
Questions? Rebuttals? Rotten tomatoes?
Ask me now, ask me over beer later, or connect with me: