Personas are a common marketing and design tactic that help to focus your marketing campaign or project. They’re character sketches of individual audience members that define who the website, product or service is for in order to bring the user into the project development process. Personas help marketers visualize their audience and better understand their needs in relation to the campaign.
Christina Wodtke, a usability expert, explanations persona development in her book Information Architecture: Designing for the Web. She refers to persona development as “playing Barbies.”
Just like when you were five years old and played Barbies by creating imaginary lives for Barbie and Ken, creating personas is about creating make-believe lives for your audience members.
Ultimately, personas help to move you away from what the project team wants and towards what the persona wants. Instead of saying “I like the colour yellow, so we should use it on our homepage design” you can say “Bob will have trouble reading yellow text and we should choose a colour that makes it easiest for Bob to complete the task.”
The persona process that we’ve developed is built from Wodtke’s book, Information Architecture: Designing for the Web, “Chapter 6: From A to C by Way of B.”
We recommend creating 3 primary personas - common user types that are important to the business success of the project - and 2 to 3 secondary personas - user types that are very different from primary users but whose needs still need to be addressed for the success of the project - for every project.
Ideally, you should start with audience research. Take a survey, talk to your fans on Facebook, find any way you can to get to know your target users.
Once you have your primary data, begin creating your personas by starting with the user’s name, demographics and psychographics. This should include age, gender, location, family life, likes and dislikes, and his or her location in the adoption curve (innovator, early adopter, early majority, or late majority).
Build on this to develop the user’s professional and personal background (including job title, job history, role in the company, leisure activities, and hobbies); a quote that encapsulates the persona’s attitude towards your product or service; internet or technical profile (that is, how often they use the web and how comfortable they are online); and their favourite websites (this gives you an idea of what types of design they’re comfortable with and how they are interacting online).
Build your persona out further by outlining his or her goals with I need / I want statements. Goals are the crux of your personas because they determine what needs your project or campaign must meet.
When developing persons, don’t skimp. Building personas takes time. When we develop personas we generally allot 2 to 4 hours development time for each persona and we do this knowing that investing time at this stage will save us time in the end. The more real your personas are, the easier it is to develop a successful project or campaign.
Once your personas have been developed look at your project or campaign from the perspective of your personas. How would Bob interact with your product? What paths would he take through your site? What is easy to do? What’s difficult? Can Bob achieve his goals?
Ruth > Publisher
Basics: 50-something, female, publisher of a mid-size press. She is a publisher with a huge amount of industry experience. She handles all of the long-term planning for her company, controls the purse strings and has various departments reporting to her.
Ruth says she understands the online world but needs to be convinced of new ideas. She says she wants to see the numbers when asked to part with her money, but it’s realy about needing to see credible sources and something she can relate to before she can learn something new.
Professional and personal background:
Ruth has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is interested in books, magazines, art, design, interior decorating, traveling and staying fit. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.
I want to spend my money on proven methods that I understand and I can’t afford to jump at every new opportunity. I’ve been working in the industry for over thirty years and while I understand that things are changing, to me, a book is still a book.
She thinks she understands the web but only uses it at a basic level. She has email, visits news and book websites, and is aware of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook but has never used them.
Ruth uses/enjoys the websites:
- How do I choose well?
- Who should I read given limited time?
- Be my filter so I save time
I need / I want:
- I want to see case studies from companies I know
- I want to see value in where I spend my money
- I want to see reporting/numbers on where I spend my money
- I need credible sources that I can relate to
- I need to know how online fits in to the bigger publishing picture
- I want validation and an increased profile for my company
- I want to network at “C” level
- I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation