How User Personas can transform your digital marketing

By Alaina Roberts Posted 30 November 2016Reading Time: 8 minutes

Understanding the elements of UX - User Personas

Just because your digital experience exists online, it doesn’t mean it should overlook some of the traditional rules of marketing when it comes to understanding your consumer.

Having insight on your website or app visitors, their goals and the context of their interaction with your brand, enables you to craft an experience to match their needs.

In this article we look at User Personas, what they are, why you need them, how they are used and how to create them.

What are User Experience Personas?

Personas are fictional representations of your real customers.  They are often used in marketing to identify the target consumers, develop relevant messages and choose appropriate channels. However, when creating a digital experience such as a website or mobile application, a User Persona goes one step further by providing additional vital insight to help improve your online conversions.

Why do I need to have User Personas?

User Personas are invaluable in highlighting the needs, motivations, attitudes and goals of your different user-types throughout the life of the project. At any stage throughout the design and development when you need to make a decision, whether that's designing the structure of the site, the layout of the pages or writing the actual content, you can refer to the personas and consider the needs of the different user-types or how 'Samantha' or 'Paul' might respond. 

The information illustrated within a persona is also used to test and enhance the user’s overall experience to increase engagement and ultimately revenue.

How to create a User Persona

The best way to create effective and accurate User Personas is by using primary research as the foundation. Understanding who your users are, what they are trying to achieve and why, plus what motivates them to interact with you, will help you to successfully meet their needs.

User Personas combined with Goals, Tasks and Scenarios, i.e. the overarching goal of the user and the specific actions each user needs to undertake, and in what context, will allow you to create powerful solutions and positive journeys, that deliver exceptional user experiences and lead to many successful conversions.

For example, if you are an online jewellery seller, it is important to consider who would be most likely to do some light research for a gift on their mobile device whilst waiting at a bus stop, and who would spend time on their laptop specifically looking to make an immediate purchase.

There are a variety of research techniques that could be used, but ‘in-person’ methods such as interviews and workshops, where body language and expression can also be observed, are the best option for the most valuable insight.

In a user interview, a UX professional will ask questions such as; why the user would visit the website or app, in what circumstances might they engage, what they find frustrating and what they are expecting to see or find. This insight is incredibly valuable to build up the picture of the users that will be engaging with your brand. Unlike marketing personas they won’t be primarily based on demographics such as age, career choice or household income, but instead focused on the goals and attitudes of the user.

Getting the chance to get face-to-face with your consumers will also help to feed into your overall user experience. Hearing first hand about other pain points will help generate new ideas and opportunities that can help improve the solutions you are providing.

Proto Personas

Budget is often cited as a reason not to invest in Personas – this seems crazy. Why invest thousands in the design and development of a digital experience when you don’t really know if it is going to meet the needs of your audience? However if this is a barrier you face, personas can be developed using insight from internal stakeholders - these are called Proto Personas.

Sales and customer service teams who have direct contact with users will be able to contribute some ideas on the user types that interact with your organisation and their goals and needs. Combine this information from other secondary research such as analytics and marketing metrics to create your Personas. Ideally these Proto Personas should be validated before being relied on too heavily, but they do help to focus thinking when constructing a digital experience.

How many personas do I need?

Personas are designed to represent specific user-types to inform your user experience decisions. It is best to prioritise your user-types into primary and secondary, ideally you have around 4-6 Personas in total. Too many personas will mean that you will try to cater for too many people, ultimately meaning that the experience is poor for everybody.

An example of User Personas: 

UX deliverables Personas2

What to include in a persona?

There is no definitive list of what to include in your personas as the information is usually tailored to the digital project-type and marketing sector. Assigning a name and age to your Persona can be helpful when referring to the user-type as it builds a picture in your mind of a real person. So when faced with a decision to make you can refer to how the personas ‘Samantha’ or ‘Paul’ might react.

Here is a suggested list of information you might like to include in your User Persona:

Personal e.g. Include a photograph
, Name
, Age
, Gender
, Marital status, Family status, Ethnicity Professional e.g. Job title / Main daily activity – Education level
Reasons for visit e.g. User needs, interests and goals for their site visit, User motivations
, User task expectations
Technical e.g. Technical ability
, Devices used to visit site
, Other devices
, User environment and context, Operating systems used
, Online activity level

Format of the Persona It is best to keep the Persona concise and as a reference point that can be easily scanned. Bullet points, scales and short narrative are typical content types found in personas. Word clouds are useful for goals and needs as emphasis can be illustrated on more important points.

In summary

Investing in User Personas will have a direct positive impact on the bottom line. Identifying your key user-types, combined with other UX techniques such as task analysis and experience mapping will mean you can design the experiences that will delight your customers, meet their needs and ultimately improve your conversions. Read more on User Personas and keep an eye on our blog for more information about other UX techniques.  

If you need some assistance creating your Personas, the UX experts here at DotLabel can help. Our UX services are available standalone, or as part of a wider digital redesign or redevelopment project.

It’s not just customer facing websites and apps that benefit from user experience techniques. We also work on developing internal web based platforms such as portals and intranets to ensure that the experience is intuitive and user friendly.