What is a user persona?

A persona is a fictional character, created using real-life data, to represent a user type of your service or site. They help keep your business decisions in line with your users’ goals and needs.

Why create personas?

Personas help you to focus your efforts — whether it’s deciding on what functionality to prioritise or how to approach your marketing strategy. By adding a real-world consideration to the conversation, you’ll be able to target the customers that really matter to your business. They also help:

  • give you an understanding of the user journey and how to optimise it
  • decision makers prioritise activities and campaigns
  • steer the development of wireframes, interface design, titles and site structure
  • create a design and overall look of a website that resonates with your users
  • content producers write content that is in your audiences’ tone of voice
  • inform conversion rate optimisation (CRO) practices — what’s going to tip your visitors into making an enquiry or purchase?

Creating effective personas

Before you start creating user personas, you need to have a good understanding of your key audience segments. These segments will likely be based on some qualitative user research, analytics, and information from the people within your company that come into contact with your customers most regularly.

Remember, your personas are only useful if they are well researched. Guessing who your users are can lead to poorly targeted marketing and website development. You may also miss out on opportunities to discover your target persona — that person you really want to come into contact with your brand.

Effective personas should:

  • Represent a major and valuable user group to your site. You may have 40 different types of people that come into contact with your company, but you’ll need to narrow this down to be effective.
  • Express and focus on the most important needs, expectations and challenges of these key user groups. This will help you to optimise your site to ease visitors through the buyer’s journey — from brand awareness to making a purchase.
  • Give a clear picture of how these user groups are likely to use your site. Streamlining the user journey will help to build trust with your brand and increase conversions.
  • Help with deciding which features and functionality of a site are more important.
  • Describe real people. By basing your personas on a specific person, it’s much easier to target your content, design and functionality.

Best practices for developing personas

Ideally, to get the most value out of your personas, you want to develop them at the beginning of the project. That way they will inform the functionality of your website and help to uncover any gaps or opportunities.

If you’re refreshing or reworking an existing site, or introducing a big change — develop your personas at the earliest opportunity.

Creating three or four personas is best. By creating more, you run the risk of trying to please everyone and end up not pleasing anyone at all. It’s best to paint with a broad brush and target the biggest segment of your audience or prioritise by the value of that audience.

To ensure personas are accurate representations of your users, we at Selesti do a number of things, which can differ depending on the client and their industry:

Conduct user research: Work out who your users are, what their behaviours are, as well as their challenges, goals and assumptions. What are they expecting from your website or system?

Condense the research: Look for commonalities between users and begin to group them together.

Brainstorm and refine: Narrow these down into three or four personas, name them and begin to flesh them out. Categorise them or separate them into primary or secondary personas. You should now have the drafts of your personas and an idea of their characteristics.

Make them realistic: Make your personas a person. What’s their name, what do they care about and how can you help them?

Dealing with very different users

You may find that you have two very different user types with very different needs. You may want to revisit how you build and design your site, or even adapt your branding.

Some of our clients, for example, have a mix of domestic and commercial customers. Those audience types have very different needs and trying to get one site to meet both could end in a frustrating experience for either one.

Consider whether you need both sides of the site on one domain or whether subdomains are a more viable option. If you keep everything on one domain, consider using the site’s design to filter users to the right part of the site at the earliest opportunity.

Different types of user personas

Customer needs: This persona is especially helpful for eCommerce sites. This persona outlines the wants and needs of a customer.

Customer behaviour: This persona outlines the motivations behind why a user behaves the way they do across a website.

User experience: The user experience personas are based around how different groups of people experience the same website event or design differently.

At Selesti, our user persona work will differ depending on the project outline and the user environment we are updating.

What are the benefits?

We took a user-led approach to our work for Funkin Cocktails. Developing user personas was critical to the success of the site, informing the build, design, functionality and content.

Mood boards were designed and user journeys were mapped out to help refresh the look and feel, while also improving the UX of the site.

On-page content was optimised to nurture their customers’ motives for making a purchase, address their concerns and help them overcome any challenges.

This strategy has led to some substantial improvements in eCommerce performance, including:

  • 21.26% increase in eCommerce conversion rates
  • 23.31% uplift in transactions
  • 13.29% increase in revenue, versus the previous year

User personas are a vital stage in planning any project. By ignoring your users’ needs, you could be missing a valuable opportunity to drive commercial success through your digital presence.

Worried you’ve missed this vital step in your upcoming project? Get in touch to find out how we can help.