Quick User Personas – Understanding Your Audience.

Good Information Design and User Experience are essential to build commercial and profitable websites. Even if you don’t have a huge budget you can still do a few simple personas to help you understand your audience and put a human face to a demographic.

Developing full User Personas can be a time consuming and expensive exercise.

Traditionally they are built from interviewing potential users (within your target market) and building a fictitious composite of selected demographics. Whilst developing these in depth personas offers a web design company huge insights and qualitative benchmarks there is not always the budget to accommodate them.

It is still possible to develop these personas using information from other marketing statistics (demographics etc), and although not as in depth they can still help define user groups, structure content and navigation and revise functionality.

Recently we had a National Television Network approach us to build a forum for a reality TV show. They knew roughly what they wanted users to do on the site but they had never put a ‘human face’ to any of the users and saw them mostly as numbers or ‘traffic’. In only a few hours we had developed 5 user personas to represent a broad cross section of users and typical tasks we expected them to complete. Although the client understood what they were building, as soon as they read the personas they then understood who they were building it for and how they would actually use it. This allowed for more targeted ad placements and a clearer indication of where a user might travel next on the site as well as some fundamental changes to the interface.

Personas are very useful and can be good fun to develop to help understand your audience and users. Building up a personality and a back story for your users means you can identify with them and anticipate their requirements and how they would like to feel when using your site.

As an example, if you were building an ecommerce site to sell small electrical goods, you would have quite a broad user base - but each demographic would have a different personality and user experience.

“Sally is 25 and works at a travel agent in the city. Her boyfriend, Paul, is a gadget freak and is always craving the latest gizmo.

It is Paul’s birthday soon and Sally wants to surprise him with a new digital camera for their up-coming holiday. Paul already has a camera but she knows he thinks it is too big and clumsy for someone as cool as him!

A workmate recently told Sally about a great new site called cameratech.com.au that sells all the latest electronic stuff at a great price. Sally is excited to check it out and logs on as soon as she gets home. The site looks modern and clean and Sally scans for the Digital Camera section.

Using the simple filtering functions Sally quickly found a selection in her price range. The big pictures, simple language and comparison function made her decision even easier…”

It would go on but you get the idea. As a user group “Sally” might want a quick experience, strapped for time she doesn’t want to be browsing for hours. Clear search, filters are important for Sally to find what she wants. Big pictures and non-technical language help Sally make up her mind quickly and your site makes the sale fast.

Sally’s needs may be different to her boyfriend Paul who wants to see the technical details and really get into comparing products on a more granular level - and so you can see that you may need to supply different ways of viewing a product.

Once you have your personas you can go further and find them a face, put them up in the wall and make sure every decision you make for your website will make the user experience for Sally and her friends a good one, as well as making your site a big success.

User persona can be relatively quick and you can do them yourselves to help give your web agency a better understanding of what you want to achieve.