Effective marketing campaigns and websites depend on accurate, relevant design personas. The days of designing by feel and delivering a general message are long gone. Customers want to know you understand their specific needs and if they don’t think you get them, they are a click away from a competitor that does.
Why you need to develop personas and what do they tell you:
Who your customers are
What are the activities they want to perform
Why they might use/buy/wear/visit your product – their motivations
How your product/service fits into the context of their life
Getting personas right the first time is essential. Mistakes made in the identification and creation of design personas generally come to light only after the site/campaign has been built and deployed. Correcting the problems caused by inaccurate personas, therefore, becomes an expensive, disruptive proposition.
Creating web personas involves a four-step process:
1) Identify priority users (can be as simple as Registered Members, Regular Visitors and Ad-hoc/Organic)
2) Observe them through research (interviews, surveys, web analytics such as hits and keywords etc…). To properly research personas, you’ll want to conduct one-on-one phone interviews with a group of active and valued clients as well as prospects familiar with you or your firm. Have another person on the call with you to listen and take notes so you can focus on having a natural conversation that covers the goals, attitudes and behaviors of your interviewee.
3) Analyze the data for themes and patterns about use – look for Needs, Motivations, Activities and Problems.
4) Refine the user groups – translate the themes into 3-5 segments. Segmenting personas is an intuitive, rather than scientific, process that generalizes your personas and qualifies them for uniqueness, realism, describability, user-base coverage, and influence upon the decisions you will make about your website/marketing during prototyping.
Selling and sharing personas with the creative group – they should be happy that someone is giving them specific direction based on real usage and research. The personas are going to show them important patterns about behavior and give them a user perspective for guiding their design and copy. Moreover, it should prompt new design possibilities and features. It may even trigger further research that leads to – INNOVATION.
Make sure to test your personas. Use and act out decision-making scenarios. A basic testing scenario might start with a search engine query for a description of your service or product (no specific names, though—we’re acting as people who don’t yet know about your firm) and follow the path from landing on your site’s homepage to finding a low level detail page and responding to a call to action. If you construct your site to allow for this kind of procedure, you’ll make better choices as to the types of content and calls to action that would be available based upon your personas.
Below are some generic questions you can use as a starting point for building the questionnaire for your persona development:
How can you best reach them? In order to communicate effectively with your audience, you want to know where they hang out (in person and/or online) and what media they prefer.
How can you attract and keep their interest? Once you know where to find your target audience, you want to identify how you can get their interest, drive them to your content, and keep them engaged.
How can you help them? It’s crucial that you determine how to best serve your audience.
How do they make purchase decisions – you want to know as much as possible about your personas’ decision making processes, so that you can nurture them appropriately along the way.
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