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Environment Agency

The best personas are based on user research. Involving internal stakeholders in their development helps increase engagement and buy in to the process and the outputs.

  • Who: Environment Agency
  • What: Persona development
  • How: Interviews with internal staff and real users to get a detailed understanding of key goals, motivations and frustrations.
  • Result: 3 intranet personas and 5 external website personas to guide site development and content production


The Environment Agency had previously undertaken a review of their internet and intranet operations which recommended that the Agency should gain a better understanding of the users of the Environment Agency’s web services, and these users’ goals. Consequently, the Agency decided on a research programme to develop personas for both the internet and intranet sites. The Agency also wanted to develop an understanding throughout the organisation about how the personas were developed, and gain commitment to the personas and their use in future web services development.

Web Usability proposed a programme of user research to ensure evidence based personas, combined with workshops with Agency stakeholders to facilitate buy-in to the persona development.

What we did

Web Usability undertook:

  • Internal Organisational Research: interviews with a range of people within the Agency to get their views on target users for both internet and intranet services, and also an analysis of web usage statistics
  • Web Stakeholder Workshop: this involved key stakeholders from across the Agency who considered the internal research, to identify target user groups for the user research
  • User Research: this was to gain a better understanding of users’ needs, and how they wish to obtain information. Over 50 respondents from all over England and Wales were interviewed, representing the agreed user types for both internet and intranet
  • ‘Users and Goals’ Workshop: the feedback and analysis from the user research was discussed at this workshop, which involved stakeholders from across the Agency. The objectives were to agree the priority user types and the user goals that the Agency would support on its sites. This discussion provided the framework for the subsequent persona development
  • Persona development: then the personas were developed, detailing the personas’ goals, priorities, painpoints and contexts, some personal information, and how the internet or intranet would help them. Plus a suitable picture!


The project delivered three intranet personas and five internet personas which were then used on a daily basis by Environment Agency staff to guide site development and content production: if content didn’t fit the personas then it didn’t get used. The user evidence and the process also helped gain commitment to the personas as tools for the sites’ development and started the process of developing a user centred culture within the organisation. The Environment Agency developed a range of materials to help encourage the use of personas, from handbooks to desktop and life-size cardboard cut -outs of the personas. But the personas aren’t standing still: the Agency is undertaking ongoing user research to update and refresh the personas to ensure they remain effective and relevant.

“We found the approach taken by Web Usability to be thorough and professional and the outcomes were practical and easy to use, written in a language that was relevant to Agency staff”

Simon Ashley – Head of Interactive Development.

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