User personas are a tool to ensure your website has a good user experience. Some people may call them pen portraits. Benefits of personas include: segmenting your market; confirming your web site visitors’ needs; explaining to a website designer who your visitors are; focusing people on the customer; a website which helps visitors; sharing understanding of who your customer is. The real benefit of all of this is to be more customer-focused, which will result in better customer satisfaction and more business. Examples of personas so you can see what they can look like.
What are user personas?
- A tool – used to create a good user experience on your website.
- Your real customers as fictional characters – who represent your web site visitors. Each character is the different type of targeted user. They each represent a group of customers with things in common. They will show the different characteristics, attitude and behaviour of visitors that might use your web site. Hypothetical, archetypal user characters, defined in detail. They have names and faces. Written like it is one real person, but they represent your users.
- Goals and behaviour of a real group of users.
How they are used in pratice
- Designers can see your customers – A designer will design for the different personas.
- Testing ideas – Different ideas for your website, about design, content, imagery, can be tested against a user persona and questions asked about how well those ideas fit the needs of the persona.
- Bring your customers to life – The whole team can picture them.
Why make user personas?
Does this all sound a bit loony? You may be surprised at how fast user personas become indispensable to a business.
- Know the customer – understand who your customers are and what they need from your web site. Doing this removes assumptions.
- Communicate your thoughts to others, such as a website designer who doesn’t know your business and customers as well as you do.
- Find out what your customers want from your website can only have a positive affect on your bottom line.
- A better user experience. It means that any investment you make on your website is more likely to have a good return because it will be used more. A good customer experience in a website means more lead generation, and a better online reputation.
- Communicating your business strategy to your own team and suppliers as they help them to understand your customers.
Personas are a nice way of segmenting your market, to understand who you are targeting, who your ideal enquiry is. So they are useful tools for business strategy as well as designing a website.
Personas are useful in considering the goals, motivations, desires, and limitations of your customers in order to help to guide decisions about the features, interactions, and visual design of your website.
Communication to web site designers about who your users are
They are very useful to website designers who are looking for clues to craft the design of your website to create a good customer experience. The website designer will make choices about the font, copy, graphics, etc which are based on the persona. A user persona is an essential part of the user-centred design process.
Confirmation of who the user is
Who is “the user”? Everyone has a slightly different idea of who your customers and website visitor are, even in the same business, so personas are a great way to get an agreed, single view for your whole business. Personas replace “the elastic user” with something more solid and real, removing a lot of vagueness and providing something more concrete for a designer to base their design decisions on.
Personas minimise self-referential design. This means that although you know what’s best for your business, your website is not just for you, it’s for your customers, and you are not the same person as your customers. You’re already sold on why your customers should choose you but your website visitors may not be, so they will visit your website with a lot of needs and feelings which you don’t share with them. Personas are a great way to keep objective and make sure your website design is relevant for your customers.
- Keep it to 4 – Define the four most personas per product that you offer – any more and you probably need two products!
- ‘Worst case user’, include this so if this person can use your website, anyone can.
- Keep it simple – They don’t have to be too pretty, or overloaded.
Examples of user personas
Example user persona created for HMRC