Why Your Website Planning Should Include Defining User Personas

We don’t need to tell you that there are a lot of elements involved with website planning. So, if we asked you where you were with your user personas, would you have a concise and clear answer?

Why Your Website Planning Should Include Defining User Personas
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, September 28, 2021

Like any content on any platform, both digitally and otherwise, the best-received examples know exactly who they’re speaking to. This comes down to defining your audience, and in rough terms, that’s what a user persona is. But it is more too. Well defined user personas consider all those drivers, emotional and otherwise, that will get your audience to engage with you and compel them to act.

Why do you need to know who you’re talking to?

Fact. Your website isn’t there to look nice. It is an integral part of your marketing strategy. It’s an engagement platform, or a sales platform, or both. We know that we need to tailor messages to appeal to an audience. That’s stating the obvious, but there are real benefits that tie directly into your marketing KPIs for doing this.

They include but are not limited to:

  • Building meaningful relationships with your audience, because you’re saying the right things to the right people, at the right time.
  • Getting to know your customers better, including their likes, dislikes and challenges.
  • Increasing sales through targeted messages at optimum times.

What are user personas?

User personas as a tool to enable you to do all these things and maximise the effectiveness of your website content. For anyone who’s worked in media, you’ll have come across those funny personas they create for things like radio stations, where their target market is a 40-year old mum of two called Dawn or something like that.

The point is, it’s not a new concept. It’s a way of picturing your target audience that’s been used for some time, but it’s revamped and refreshed for the digital age, with a whole host of data-driven tools to help you dig even deeper.

Rather than having one persona for your brand, you’ll likely find that your audience naturally falls into several categories, giving you a handful of user personas. The personas themselves are fictional characters based on similar interests, traits, pain points and so on, to give you a visualised character to help you better pitch your brand.

Different types of user personas

If you’re wondering if there are different types of audience personas or different templates to work from, there are.

You can work from certain criteria to build your personas, which may be something like:

  • Goal-based personas – this specifically looks at the user’s workflow to achieve certain tasks or goals on your website.
  • Engaging personas – these are a lot more in-depth and nuanced, taking emotions, drivers, behaviour and backgrounds into account to flesh out a full personality for designers to work from.
  • Fictional personas – unlike engaging personas, these tend to be personas based on intuition rather than robust data.

How many user personas should we have?

Sorry folks, the answer to this question is an unsatisfying, “it depends”. But it depends on what, you ask. Partly on the amount of data you have. Typically, the more information you have on your users, the more in-depth you can go. But it can also vary depending on things like how diverse the people are within your research.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re not working to a magic number of user personas. Instead, you want to define the most accurate personas possible with the data you have.

Ways to define user personas

Defining personas often comes down to a multi-step method. The more precise the persona, and the more data-driven it is, the more steps in the strategy. If you are going by feeling more than data, obviously the process will be stripped back.

In broad strokes, you’d expect any work on building user personas to include things like:

  • Data collection.
  • Reviewing the data to form conclusions.
  • Categorising the main traits to see how many personas you may be speaking to.
  • Defining and naming your personas.

Like anything, the data collection part can work in numerous ways too depending on the techniques used. It might be qualitative, quantitative, or observational research for instance.

How W/Brand implement user personas

For us, it’s all about knowing who you’re talking to so you can build a customer journey that works online. We do this by defining all the user personas and following a template that’s proven to be effective.

We also consider customers, employees and relevant stakeholders in the mix. Once defined, we map out their journey from the first possible touchpoint to the end conversion. This relies on us having a clear and accurate goal for each persona from the beginning. As we progress through your design, we use these personas to stay both focused and creative. Ultimately, this empowers us to develop content that’s engaging and relevant to your brand, and your brand alone.

In conclusion

Use personas may get touted as a relatively new thing, but sales and marketing teams have seen the benefits in visualising a target audience in quite a specific way useful for many years. We don’t need to tell you that the real difference here is the data and the methods we now have at our fingertips.

Content needs to be targeted and relevant to engage an audience. Especially online, where you can drive down your bounce rate and other vital metrics by simply tweaking the content on the page. User personas are the thing that gives you direction.

They keep your website project on track from beginning to end, and they give you benchmarks for measuring the success of your content throughout your website’s lifespan. But like anything in your marketing strategy, they should never be allowed to grow stale either. Things change. People change. Personas change. And with best practices and handle on your dynamically changing business and audience, you can crest the waves.

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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