Our favourite sessions at #PSEWeb 2023, part 1

Check out our team members' fave sessions from #PSEWeb 2023.

Welcome to the first instalment of our series recapping our favourite #PSEWeb 2023 sessions. Heidi Strohl (Manager, Digital Design) shares her takeaways on a session about web personas.

Session title: From persona to publish: How to turn your audience insights into more personalised and compelling content

Presenter: Dana Rock, Director of Experience Design at Pickle Jar Communications

What I liked about this presentation

I love how Dana maps out how create personas that are accurate and applicable to decisions around content. (I've always hated the term "persona" because I feel like it's an invitation to make up audience profiles by randomly combining useless attributes and unfounded assumptions.) Dana's approach anchors the personas in situations and motivations.

What I learned

To delight your main audience and satisfy everyone else. (This idea is a gem. Buh-bye, lengthy lists of "target" audiences!)

Dana maps personas' motivations and interests to the available touch points, which creates a cheat sheet for level of engagement from each persona. You can see who's spending a lot of time where, and who's just passing through. This is an awesome decision-making aide.

My takeaways

Dana provides a framework for how to leverage personas in decision-making. This process was my main takeaway! Here's a short (made up) example similar to what Dana shared:

Persona & motivation Touchpoint: Program description on website Touchpoint: Open House event


(Has a career goal and wants to map their path to it)

High importance

Wants to see which programs can lead to their career. Wants to see prerequisites to be admitted to those programs.

Low importance

Might be interested to speak to alumni or graduating students about their career prospects.


(Wants to maximize their options and try different things)

Low importance

Might want to see general admissions requirements and get a sense of the different programs offered

High importance

Wants to see the variety of different activities and experiences available on campus

How to build and use this type of table:

  1. Sort your user data and pull out the attributes that'll help you personalize experiences and make them delightful. Dana's example personas are characterized by motivations (rather than variables like demographics or background) and a particular moment in a journey.
  2. Map your personas' level of interest (or potential engagement) to your main touch points. People who have direct contact with your audience(s) will be key to validating the personas and may be able to help with the engagement table, but you could also rely on interviews and other data sets.
  3. Use your matrix to tailor each touch point to delight its main audience (and satisfy the others who uses it). Based on this example:
    1. We'd tailor the content of the program description to our "planner" persona, while making sure we include requirements and basic info that the "explorer" is looking for.
    2. We'd tailor our Open House event to our "explorer," but consider offering an alumni and careers session for our "planner."

View video recording of this session

McGill staff members can view #PSEWeb 2023 sessions on the #PSEWeb site (see email communications from #PSEWeb for password).

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