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March 23, 2016

The Who, How, What and Why of User Personas

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Adrian Gonzales  /  Design  /  Development Mar 23, 2016

Websites are multi-dimensional. They’re welcome mats. They’re information centers.

A website can serve as the first interaction between a brand and consumer, and it has the capacity to play a large role in determining the future of that important relationship.

One effective tool to leverage in personalizing the website experience and maximizing performance is user personas. These data-driven customer profiles enable brands to create a highly engaging, user-centered web experience, driving brand awareness, key performance metrics and ultimately strengthening the consumer to brand relationship.

The Who: Getting to Know the User

According to a study by The Wharton School, of the 700 million websites that exist, 72 percent fail to consistently engage users. The majority of these sites provide a one-size-fits-all experience and are unable to respond to the user’s needs in an individualized way.

Greater personalization is the answer. It starts by identifying who your primary user groups are – small business owners, young urban professionals, soccer moms, etc., – so that your brand can conduct the research required in order to better understand user needs and specific objectives

The How: Conducting the Research, Mining the Data

Once you’ve determined who the key user groups are, the next step is to learn as much as possible about them. The more a brand knows about what drives their core users, the more tailoring of the website’s UX is possible.

How do you go about doing this? Creating a user persona entails uncovering each customer segment’s behaviors, motivations, and pain points. Research is the key. User persona profiles are developed by synthesizing various types of both qualitative and quantitative research that may include:

  • User interviews to reveal key insights into how the site is perceived and what information is the most important.
  • Research and Analytics to aggregate and measure vital demographic information including average age, devices of use, and key methods of discovering information to ensure a brand’s marketing mix is in line with the persona’s habits.
  • MOSAIC profiles to anticipate customer behaviors, attitudes, and preferences.

These are just a few examples of the types of research you may wish to conduct during the exploration phase. When the process is complete, you’ll have a treasure trove of data you can use to create the personas that will drill the design process.

The What: Visualizing Your Persona

What does an effective user persona look like? User personas can be visualized in many different ways, but one of the most common executions is a one-page document that distills the key information you’ve identified during the research phase.

If your audience is small business owners, your user persona might look like this:
user-persona-sm-bizIf you’re targeting tech-savvy, altruistic young people, it might look like this:

user_persona_tech

If you’re talking to highly educated young urban professionals, it might look like this:

user_persona_educated

Whatever form the user persona takes, it must clearly spell out what makes your customers tick.

  • What are their goals, needs, and interests?
  • What are their hesitations, pain points, and concerns?
  • What do they ultimately hope to get out of the web experience?

Your user persona must illustrate this, in a clear, concise way.

The Why: Are User Personas Truly Worth the Effort?

Why go to all of the trouble of creating a user persona? Broadly speaking, it’s easier to aim when you can see your target more clearly. There’s also the “keeping up with the Jones’” argument. 89 percent of high-performing businesses have responded to market conditions by enhancing the customer experience. One of the ways these top companies respond is by creating an engaging, user-driven website experience.

User personas help web marketers do just that. Thoughtfully rendered, diligently executed personas produce insights you can use to justify UX design decisions, inspire the ideation process, and provide a valid basis for site critiques. They establish the “voice” of the user, which builds empathy, which in turn, enables designers to work in a more mindful way, putting the customer at the center of the experience.

Not least, user personas are critical in creating the next phase of the design process – the user journey (more on that to come soon).

Do you have user personas gathering dust on a shelf – developed in a whirlwind brainstorm, then forgotten and abandoned in the rush of daily activities? Or maybe your firm has never clearly defined user personas, but you’re ready to get started!

In either case, our detailed guide to user personas and customer journeys is a valuable resource you shouldn’t miss out on. It’s packed with clear guidance and detailed examples. Hit the link below to get access.



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