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Why I Create Personas - Using Personal Server Customers to Illustrate

Research6 min read

There are innumerable tools UX Designers pull out for various scenarios, and you can tell who's an expert by their continuous ability to pull out the right one for the job. If there's one I have not been able to do without thus far with my product design experience, it's user personas. There are multiple reasons for this:

  1. They align team efforts. Even if my team feels like we understand who we're designing for, we never know for sure that we're working in sync until we have the visible documentation in front of us.
  2. They eliminate suboptimal or wasteful work. I have never gone through the creation process of user personas - or even prototype personas - where the team did not make indispensable realizations about our end customers. In every instance, priorities were corrected, months of expensive work going the wrong direction was avoided, or critical strategic insights were surfaced for product development.
  3. They inspire meaningful subtleties that produce deep user engagement. I feel connected with the personas for whom I design products and messaging. If I am to continue thinking about them "after hours," that is important. It's the details in the persona documentation - even if they're just best guesses from stake holders - that enable me to design interactions and information with precision.
  4. Personas reduce mental overhead during the design process. Without useful documentation like user personas, I just have too much mental overhead during the design process. Documentation is needed to ensure I'm on course and avoid important items from falling through the cracks as time passes and complexities occupy my mental resources.

Below are representative personas of the actual people for whom my entire team and I facilitated user interviews. Each of them accurately represent multiple customers we spoke with. (I'm not satisfied with the photos, which would ideally be larger with higher resolution, but they get the job done.) These are the kind of people who buy personal servers.


  • 55 years old
  • owns his own business
  • has four employees
  • works with very proprietary files
  • pays almost $100/ month on cloud services
  • stores very important documents
  • has lost documents on cloud services before and has always felt on edge because of it
  • does not trust the security of his cloud services
  • pays $20/ month hosting a couple websites
  • hates to hear news like Equifax’s hack
  • has a few kids and cares about storing over a terabyte’s worth of family videos and pictures
  • cares a lot about having file redundancy
  • interested in setting up IoT devices at his business only after knowing he can own the data that they produce - especially for cameras

Needs, obstacles, desires:

  • needs to cut his costs
  • needs a service with multiple user accounts for his employees
  • cannot feel vulnerable to hacks
  • must have ability to host a couple business websites and a personal website and have thousands of monthly visitors
  • hoping for a website creator software he can use for his Daplie-hosted websites
  • hopes to have a system even more user-friendly than Dropbox
  • hoping Daplie can serve as a mirror to back up all his stuff on another Daplie server unit in a different location
  • wants automatic back ups that work seamlessly
  • hopes Daplie can have time-specific sharing options, not all shared links last indefinitely
  • eager to see what surprises Daplie has, not sure what all the things he can do with it are
  • wants to adopt Daplie for the long-term - does not want to switch systems shortly after owning Daplie, does not want to discover a superior product shortly after
  • wants to know his Daplie system works great, first, before sharing with all his friends, family, and coworkers


  • 59 years old
  • father of two kids
  • home owner
  • did not grow up with the internet
  • stuck between the old world and new world
  • not technical but at least informed and knows the basics about privacy issues
  • adopted home security and smart home stuff for convenience but really wants ownership of his data, and complete control and privacy
  • raised when the economy boomed and has always had a rich physical world
  • over the years has collected electronics and gadgets, physical formats of music, and photo books
  • feels like his stuff is disorganized and all over the place (physically and online)
  • no longer prints photos
  • consumer of the internet, but not a creator
  • starting to get annoyed with being profiled and seeing ads
  • feels victimized a bit by tech over the last decade

Needs, obstacles, desires:

  • saving for retirement and tries to avoid recurring fees where possible
  • wants his wife to have a separate user account
  • wants to download a mobile app that auto sends photos to some device in his house
  • cares a bit about granite mountain storage
  • wants to have the same social benefits of Facebook, but be able to speak his mind without alienating himself from friends


  • 32 years old
  • software engineer
  • very critical and very informed about the companies he uses
  • more convenient for him to buy software than test free services
  • would prefer not to have to pay all his monthly hosting and private repo fees
  • cares a bit about privacy - creeped out a bit about corporate and government data collection on individuals
  • follows third party watchdog sites like from a distance
  • goes to meetups
  • uses Android devices
  • may spend extra time to set up his own solution
  • it would be cool to be able to host a website out of his house
  • would prefer to not have to deal with DNS or authorization
  • annoyed by setting up his security

Needs, obstacles, desires:

  • wants a place where he can tinker; most of the stuff he builds is for himself
  • may buy Daplie Cloud and just have it sit there because it's cool
  • doesn't actually believe we're going to be HUGE
  • will be most excited about playing with IOT devices
  • might consider using a Raspberry Pi over us
  • likes learning new things so our service must evolve or he will throw it away
  • doesn't want to have to worry about security
  • privacy is our main selling point to him


  • 43 years old
  • traveling for business all the time, rarely home
  • father, homeowner
  • works in advertising so is always transferring large files from Dropbox to his devices where he is all over the world
  • deals with very proprietary files he does not want Google or Dropbox to have
  • wants control over his stuff from anywhere
  • wants to know his files are secure
  • wants his videos and digital stuff out of the hands of companies like Google or Dropbox or other companies that could potentially one day go down
  • has lost ten terabytes of data before wants that to never happen again
  • has tons of personal and business stuff on the cloud
  • not too concerned about surveillance - doesn’t feel like anything can be done about it
  • doesn’t think at all about IoT companies owning data on his family’s usage
  • uses a VPN and a Tor browser on occasion
  • knows people who have had their SSN used, been hacked, and knows people who have had Bitcoin stolen, etc.
  • knows a lot about how accurate targeting can be for advertising based on people’s data and finds it a bit creepy

Needs, obstacles, desires:

  • needs a solution with high-level of security
  • needs to reliably access his stuff from anywhere in the world with internet
  • wants ownership of his stuff
  • does not want 3rd parties storing his and his clients’ stuff


  • 65 years old
  • single
  • has had to learn to keep up with tech over decades past, rather than having a spouse to rely on to take care of that
  • does not understand code, encryption, or anything too technical
  • has a simple social life- not a lot of friends, just a few close ones
  • has been a librarian and substitute teacher in the past
  • lives in a modest home
  • more social online than the average person
  • eager to use her Daplie Cloud for her own personal usage
  • not too concerned about surveillance, doesn’t think anything can be done about it
  • doesn’t think at all about IoT companies owning her data, but upon realization that they own her data, she cares about owning her camera video streaming data

Needs, obstacles, desires:

  • loves the idea of having all her cloud storage consolidated into one place
  • loves the feeling of having her own physical Cloud device
  • needs it to be as simple as possible, truly “plug and play”
  • eager to learn what other surprise features it will have for her to explore
  • interested in hosting a personal blog
  • interested in using it for her home security camera


  • similar in many respects to Gregory
  • 48 years old
  • System Administrator
  • very tech-savvy
  • internet contributor
  • bit of a maker and interested in open-source projects
  • runs Linux and Mac as main OS on his devices
  • owns four computers, a tablet, and two smart phones of his own
  • owns 25 IoT devices
  • actively takes precautions to stay private
  • does not use Social media, or even have a Facebook account
  • prefers to modify existing tools
  • privacy is very big concern of his and reads a lot about security
  • using technology is both a career and a hobby

Needs, obstacles, desires:

  • wants a test/build environment
  • wants to connect 36 devices to his Daplie Cloud
  • wants to push the Daplie limits/intends to use Daplie to it’s fullest
  • wants to contribute to and evangelize for the Daplie project
  • would consider using Daplie unit(s) as mesh network
  • expects commitment from Daplie as a company -- expects regular “upgrades”

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