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Personas: What are they and why do you need them?

By September 3, 2019 No Comments

What is an online persona?

The ability to anticipate how your potential customers might use your website is crucial when it comes to converting them. The complex journeys made by consumers through your webpages are becoming ever more important in how websites are ranked in search engines, so to be able to analyse them is crucial – and this is where online personas come in.

A persona is an idealised model of a potential customer. Before you can model the journey of a website user, you need to understand the user so by conducting user research you can build a representation of an ideal customer, a hypothetical construct that is created in such a way that they can be used to usefully predict the journeys of a real customer.

Benefits of using online personas

Online personas can give you a great focus when you come to design and develop your website. When constructed in the correct way (more on this later), personas can provide you with a representation of a major audience segment that can shape your online presence, informing site functionality, helping to uncover gaps and highlighting new opportunities. They are also crucial when it comes to ensuring your sales strategy is agile – by updating periodically your personas depending on changes in the market, it will become clear what concurrent alterations will need to be made to your website.

How to create online personas

Creating a persona requires research into your customers’ preferences and also requires a degree of imagination. If you have access to current users of your website and are able to survey them then this helps, but if not then you will need to form an idea of your user based on your product or service. Either way, the end result should be a series of personas that you can use to model hypothetical engagements with your website. It is usual for a persona to include the following information:

  • Fictional name
  • Age
  • Job title
  • Working environment – in an office, working from home or frequently on the move
  • Goals – what the persona is hoping to achieve when visiting your website
  • Technical experience – how technologically competent is your persona?
Fictional Name
Age
Job title
Working environment – in an office, working from home or frequently on the move
Goals – what the persona is hoping to achieve when visiting your website
Technical experience – how technologically competent is your persona?

Finally, it is often useful to create a narrative history of your persona, an outline of their background and their current fears or frustrations. Maybe even summarising a day in the life of your persona. The idea is to get under the skin of this hypothetical customer: by fully understanding what makes them tick will give you the best chance of improving your online service.

Four steps to creating a persona:

Step one: research

You should start by conducting user research, surveying your customers to find out more about them and why they are visiting your website. This will give you an idea of their behaviours and preferences.

Step two: questioning

Your survey should include questions about your customer’s personal details: their age, gender and education. It should also cover your customer’s profession details: the position they hold, their reasons for visiting your website, their goals in visiting your website and the environment from which they are accessing your website. Finally on your customer’s technical details: what technology (hardware and software) they are using to access your website, what proportion of time they spend surfing the web.

Step three: building

Once you have the results of this step, you should boil this information down to a few personas by looking at the results of the survey and finding patterns in the results. Don’t develop too many personas, try to limit them to three or four. This will make it easier to focus on the major requirements of your customers.

Step four: ranking

Rank the personas you develop by order of importance, try to identify which personas are representative of the majority and focus on them.

Once you have your personas researched, built and ranked, you will have a fantastic way of understanding how your new website will be used when it goes online. For more information about how we can help you develop and build your website then get in touch.