My Proudest Research Accomplishment

Throughout my 27-year tenure in UX design, approximately 90% of my research endeavors have entailed collaborations with external agencies. These projects typically followed established pathways influenced by prior knowledge and overseen by stakeholders. While such support structures are typically advantageous, this 2012 project offered a departure from conventional constraints, allowing me to fully leverage my resourcefulness and creativity.

Operating as a solo UX team member, and later with just one other colleague, within an environment devoid of established research frameworks, I embarked on a transformative 12-month persona research initiative for Dexcom, a Class III, diabetes management company. Overseeing every aspect from inception to completion, I crafted the research methodology, schedule, strategy, recruitment, travel arrangements, analysis, and final deliverables. This encompassed designing protocols, screeners, surveys, participatory design templates, and all associated visual collateral. Remarkably, the impact of this project endures a decade later.

Upon joining Dexcom in 2012 as Senior Marketing Manager, I posed a fundamental question on my first day: "Who is our target audience?" To my surprise, my colleagues viewed people with Type 1 diabetes as a monolithic group, revealing a lack of user-centered design practices within the company. Recognizing the need for change, I undertook the task of developing Dexcom's initial personas library.

Securing support for the personas project involved articulating its benefits to Marketing and R&D Leadership. I emphasized how personas foster empathy for current, former, and potential users, thereby informing product design decisions and enhancing market competitiveness. Additionally, I highlighted the role of personas in mitigating conflicts during decision-making processes. With leadership buy-in secured, albeit with a modest $2000 budget, I commenced the venture.

Due to budget constraints, I initially utilized free sources for behavioral diabetes information. This included desktop research, internal Subject Matter Experts (SME) interviews, and focus groups with Dexcom employees living with diabetes. The research approach aimed to uncover behavioral patterns across various aspects of life, such as cleanliness, faith, technology usage, societal expectations, as well as diabetes management practices.

Focus group activities included a Madlib exercise (shown below left), psychographic conversations, discussions on Dexcom product experiences, and brainstorming for product improvement.

Patterns emerged (shown above right) showing that most Dexcom users exhibited Early Adopter traits, aligning with the company's culture.

External research targeted a second persona, characterized as the Early Majority, through workshops at a family-oriented diabetes conference. Role-playing exercises and storyboarding revealed frustrations and unmet needs, identifying a new persona, "Dependent Diane."

By identifying patterns across demographics, behaviors, and preferences, two personas were established: Active Andy and Dependent Diane. These personas guided product development and market targeting, leading to Dexcom's substantial growth.

The personas remained relevant over the years, guiding product development and contributing to Dexcom's significant growth from a $100M company in 2012 to a $1B company in 2022, attributed to the user-focused approach initiated in 2013.

Excerpts from my diabetes behavioral and psychographic questionnaires, crafted to discern trends and patterns essential for forming persona profiles.

2012 Case Study: Persona Research