In creating an effective web design strategy, it’s critically important to know your users. Everything from age range to geographic location can affect how content is received and processed, so the same platform may not necessarily resonate the same with college students as with middle-aged parents.
While it’s easy to guess at what will work based on past experiences or personal preferences, understanding your target audience is the best way to hone in on an effective strategy. Without a deep knowledge of the problems users face, the experiences they find ideal, and the ways in which purchasing behavior is affected by design, it’s virtually impossible to develop a user experience that resonates. This is what you need to know about user personas, from why they matter to how to create the perfect approach.
What Are User Personas and how are they used in web design?
User personas are tools that attempt to characterise users through a combination of demographic details like age, gender, race, geographic location, and other interests to determine how to best meet customer needs. In essence, these created individuals serve as a representation of a product’s or company’s target audience.
A single user persona can be helpful but one perspective is limited in the value it can add. As such, multiple personas are highly encouraged; most experts suggest maintaining three to four. While it’s likely your business already understands who is most likely to visit your site or use your app, you can’t truly know what your customers think about who you are and what you have to offer without diving deeper.
Personas for web design and user experience should be as detailed as possible, encompassing details, interests, and personality traits so that these caricatures seem like real people. It’s encouraged to give them names, use images, and an acquaintance with all key personas before undertaking new processes. It may seem silly to give names and images to these personas – after all, they’re effectively fake people – but this can help individuals better relate and characterize the information these personas can yield.
Laying the Foundation for User Personas
For most companies, the first step in constructing user personas is performing interviews. While not perfect – a handful of interviews obviously can’t highlight every potential pain point in your practices – this process can help to highlight any overlaps between individuals that indicate an issue.
In choosing those to interview, be sure to focus on consumers in your target demographic who are able to commit the time necessary to providing thoughtful, valuable answers. Create a script in advance that sufficiently covers all topics, and focus on questions that aren’t leading, are open-ended, and are clear and specific. If possible, record all interviews to ensure nothing gets lost in the note-taking process. Make sure your script also includes adequate introductory details so that your interview subjects fully understand your intent and thus can give the most informed answers possible.
It is important to note that interviews aren’t always a possibility; in these cases, workarounds may be required. While this is a limitation, it’s not a roadblock sizable enough to halt the persona creation process. If this is the case, using other tools like surveys available to all site visitors, email surveys to members of your email list who best meet your target audience, a collection of feedback messages sent through your site, or even competitor analysis can provide insight This won’t be as exact as an interview, but can still provide a stable starting point. Even if you choose to perform interviews, these tools can still be helpful as a secondary method of data consolidation and evaluation.
Once your interviews or other steps in your discovery phase are complete, it’s time to start the process of constructing your personas. Before jumping in, take time to decide how many personas you are targeting, how in-depth your research is, and what the goals related to your personas will be.
Organise Your Research
Though the interview and data collection process, you’ll likely have learned a lot about the problem areas that frustrate users, places that are succeeding, and the ways in which your current platform or future plans fulfill business goals. Both the needs of the business and the needs of the user need to be balanced in UX projects, so be sure both of these areas are emphasized in going over your newly collected information.
Look for Patterns
More than likely, the interviews you perform and any outside analysis will contain some patterns. For example, if one user thinks your navigation panel is frustratingly confusing, he probably isn’t the only one. Carefully examine your collected data for areas of overlap and ideas shared by more than one source. As trends become clear, you can begin to classify problems into unique buckets that will serve as the foundation of your personas.
Each of your personas is a representation of the experiences shared by members of your audience, so once you have determined what matters most to your target demographic, it’s time to begin piecing together depictions. Each persona speaks to a subset of individuals, so highlight all necessary facts, including backstories, motivations for using your product or service, and any struggles your team is attempting to resolve. All purposes and problems should be largely aligned in the most logical ways possible to create a believable caricature.
The more robust these descriptions can be, the better; personas are a tool primarily used for teaching and guiding, so the more information is available, the better direction you can provide to developers and designers. Give names, assign faces, and create a fully-fleshed personality that aligns with real-life consumers.
Share Your Creations
A persona is intended to be a tool to help build your website and the content on the website.
As personas are incorporated into the process of enhancing platforms, websites, or digital marketing, tailoring solutions to users will become second nature. The art of using personas to speak for your larger user-base innately encourages a perspective that prioritizes what users need as opposed to what developers want without sacrificing business goals. This encourages a forward-thinking approach to UX development rather than one that potentially ignores the priorities held by users.
For some companies, the process of creating personas for their website and custom journey will not be easy or natural, but the opportunities available are worth the effort. With the ability to gain unique insight into the consumer mind, a productive use of personas can create a compelling competitive edge.