That is, your website should be designed for a specific person, or people (we recommend 2-4). Because we work in an industry that loves a bit of jargon, we call these audience personas. Don’t worry – they’re not real people so we don’t need GDPR-proof permission forms. But whilst they may be fictional, everything about them should be based in fact and research – glued together with a bit of gut feel.
These personas will give your design focus and ensure you keep your users in mind at every step. This process will help you understand their challenges and pain points, and what motivates them to buy from or engage with you
All sounding a bit vague? Don’t worry. Here come the details
The Value of Audience Personas to Web Design
Creating audience personas is the foundation of your website’s design. As we’ve already said it will help to give your design focus and keep the purpose of your website at the forefront of your mind. A user-centric approach to web design will ensure your website performs as optimally as possible and encourages your users to convert. To help solve the problems and challenges of your users, you need to understand them better.
Giving your imagined customer a name, a face and some human characteristics, helps you to empathise with them – and empathy is one of the earliest stages of design thinking. This empathy will allow you to more fully explore their motivations and pain points. This deeper understanding means you are far better placed to design solutions (and websites) that answer their needs.
Answering your user’s needs should be what your website is all about. So, now that we’ve convinced you, let’s look at how to write the best audience personas.
Step 1: Getting the Basics Right
Getting the basics sorted first makes the whole process easier. Give your persona a name, a gender, an age and a job title. This is essential for building a picture of them as a buyer and connecting with their motivations. Giving them a headshot photo will help you to empathise with them and view them as a real human being as well – the more detail you can add, the more real this will seem and the more effective it will be.
If you’re a B2B company, then your personas should have details on the company they work for, the industry that they’re in, the size of the company, the turnover and the seniority of your persona within that company. For extra marks, consider who they report to, who they have influence over and vice versa. As above, the more complete the picture, the more appropriate solutions you can put in place.
Step 2: Getting Inside Their Mind
Once you’ve given your persona some basic details and turned them into a believable person, it’s time to get a little deeper. That information should allow you to step into their shoes and identify their main challenges and pain points, and what motivates them to engage with a company like yours. Is Hilary an eco-conscious mum that puts the environment first but is cost-limited as well? Is Gary a fan of your product, but is struggling to convince management of the value of it?
This is a great time to get the rest of your team involved – especially those people who have direct contact with your customers. They’ll have the inside track on the specific challenges your customers face and the objections they frequently come up against.
Step 3: Answer Their Problems
Your audience personas should be fairly comprehensive at this point. They’ll be real people, with real motivations and challenges and should be representative of a large proportion of your target audience. Now you understand the problems they are trying to solve you can map out how they might do that on your website. If you’re starting from scratch you’ve got a blank canvas, if you’re upgrading or replacing an old site, think about how they can do that currently, and how you could improve that and make it as simple as possible for them.
What information can you provide easily for Gary that he can use to convince management of the value of your product? Maybe some FAQ’s would go well here. If Hilary is concerned about environmental impact, why not make it easy for her to see how green you are? A video would work well here. Don’t lose sight of what it is you want your users to do on your site though – if they’re here to buy stuff, make that easy for them as well!
Whilst all the steps are important, and none would work without the others, Step 3 is where the value can really be found. Creating audience personas is great, and is a valuable use of your time, but if you’re not using it to directly impact your website’s design and how people will interact with it, what’s the point?
Ultimately, your website needs to impress Janet, Alan, Elena, Gary and Hilary. Not me or you.