Knowing Your Users and Understanding GIS User Personas

GIS user personas (more commonly known as buyer personas) are created and used as guidelines for understanding and segmenting user needs, interests, history, demographics, etc.  Many times, marketing firms will apply this data and create a “made-up” person (and even give them a name) who represents the target customers of products and services. For GIS consultants who aren’t capturing the true needs of their market, it is indeed a challenge to then present the optimal solution in a way that will resonate with the customer.

Identifying user personas – Image Credit:

Before the trend for more focused GIS applications began, it was much easier to create user personas.  It took less research because kitchen sink applications applied to many different types of users.  It’s also the reason the industry has flipped-flopped it’s position on understanding user needs which now offer defined, segmented, and more personal applications.  This is why it is so important to create GIS user personas prior to your application development.

This is of interest, Blue Fountain Media… “Everything about user experience begins with research and strategy. Prior to creating any wireframes to determine the features of a site or application, we need learn about user needs in order to understand their goals. Traditionally, there are many different approaches to conducting this research and it can be a lengthy process. Along with understanding user needs, we want to unlock any pain points and frustrations the user is currently experiencing with a site or application.” (Source)

User personas are a major topic within the tech marketing realm.  We have provided several great articles from Hubspot about creating user personas below:

1.  The Beginners Guide to Segmentation and Buyer Personas

2.  9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas

3.  Buyer Personal Template

The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. (

GISuser personas (Image Credit, GISinc)

GIS user personas (Image Credit, GISinc)

How can We get started?

For GIS professionals, we suggest starting your persona by defining whether they are a casual user, power user, or business user.  Then pair down by industry, demographics, etc. until a specific user is described.

  • Casual User – Public and citizen based browser and mobile apps
  • Power User – GIS experts – GIS Coordinator for City
  • Business User – Focused Dashboard and Mobile apps – Public Works Department

Within the GIS user community, identifying users is important, particularly in application development. GISinc has recently authored a paper that no only looks at ArcGIS 10.5 but they have also touched on the topic of user personas. Personas are a high level way of grouping like users and should not be confused with actual licensing and specific roles applied to users within ArcGIS Enterprise. See more HERE

Comments or questions?  Please leave a comment below or contact us on Twitter @geojobegis

Prior to building and deploying your webmap, app or service how do you define your users?

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