The use of personas in Danish companies – part 2

A global challenge

When creating persona descriptions the companies who have an international target group find the international perspective challenging.

V8: “One is from Frankfurt am Main, one is from Poland, and one is from Norway. […] we had actually decided that we want personas from around the world in order to create a broad representation of users and touch points. Whereupon we asked the question: “Do we need personas from around the world?” to our reference group. They were of the same opinion, because it makes sense as we sell to everywhere in the world [ …] the countries were not chosen coincidental, they were chosen because of their substance – if they were representative, if they covered a lot of countries.”

The specific international differences that are perceived as relevant are:

  • IT competences
  • Access to Internet
  • Language abilities
  • Differences in company autonomy/managerial responsibilities
  • Level of education

It is specifically mentioned that there is a difference between the Western and the Asian users and that the interviewed find it difficult to get data and create personas for Asian users.


Those we interviewed that work in companies with an international target group describe it as a challenge to get enough data to covers all markets. They try to deal with the challenge by collecting data from different parts of the world, but none had data from all markets.

Persona descriptions

In relation to the persona descriptions there are further challenges in having a broad and international target group. The companies applied two different strategies to solve the challenges.

  • To develop descriptions where each persona represents users from a specific country (e.g. a Finn, a Pole). Sometimes with additional information that some types of personas are more predominant in some countries than others.
  • To develop persona descriptions that are so general that they cover a lot of countries.

Some companies try to combine the two strategies by dividing the persona description into an overall part and a part that specifies the national differences.

The international perspective could be seen by strategies that used names and photos to indicate international differences and similarities, such as:

  • English names are perceived as international and the personas get names such as  Anna, Elizabeth, or Robert in order for them to cover for a broad international group.
  • The personas have specific national names in order for the reader to be able to deduct the nationality from the name, e.g. Finnish, Polish, or German sounding names.
  • The photos that accompany the descriptions and are to illustrate the persona are either of general European look, they can be blurred, or cartoons in order for the reader not to be able to deduct national characteristics.
  • Or the photos represent different types: e.g. an Asian, an African, a Westerner.

Advantages of using personas when working in international teams 

The method is perceived as having even more advantages when development happens across languages, departments, and countries compared to development in an internal and national setting. For international teams the method provides a common point of reference and a common understanding of the users and their needs. At the same time the method hinders project participants in using their own local experiences.


This example of an international persona is from the Royal Library, here the name indicates nationality. Read all descriptions here: 


Keywords: thorough, passionate and interested in technics

Jukka is in his mid 40’es and works at a university as an ethnomusicologist. He is divorced, has no children, but about to marry his  girlfriend, who he met two years ago on one of the conferences he  frequently attends. He is very good at all sorts of electronic devices and likes to keep up on the newest smart phones and tablets. He is heavily into online social networking and keeps a weblog about his fields of interest. In his current job he works with automated music analysis of Hindustani classical music.
He is member of the society for ethnomusicology and has previously held a position as a visiting professor at the University of Mumbai.
Jukka has always been technically skilled. 30 years ago, he helped his parents and family with setting the clock at the VCR, while he played with his Amiga 500 – now he installs anti-virus programs, configure email accounts and upgrade operating systems. He has a naturally skill for it, but is not afraid to consult the manual if something doesn’t work for him. He even once used 14 evening to write a small weather app for smart phones just for the fun of it.

Jukka’s main interest is Hindustani classical music (wich was also the topic of his PhD thesis and main field of research). He travels several times a year to participate in music festivals and conferences related to his job. He always looks for concerts in the towns and countries he visits. He spends most of his free time doing things related to his passion for music and to his job, and it is difficult for him to separate job and spare time. He is part of both professional and social networks related to his interests and job, together with a lot of friends and contacts.

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