In the next few months, we’re doing a series of blog posts where we examine some of the processes and deliverables that we generate for our projects in an effort to gain some refreshing clarity into why we do them and to hopefully provide some insight to our clients.
Every project we take on begins with a Discovery process. While the length and complexity can vary widely, the goal is the same: we want to know all about your company. We want to know about your history, where you see the company going, all about your users or clients, the skinny on your competitors and anything else you think we should know. With this information, we’re able to make informed, rational decisions about your project throughout the entire length of its engagement.
For most projects, one of the steps we take is to build Personas.
What’s a Persona?
Simply put, a persona is a collection of characteristics of one archetypical user. These are built using insight from users, looking into Google Analytics trends, and speaking to sales team members. They provide actionable insights into the “types” of users visiting a site.
For instance, an online retailer might have a “Fashion-conscious” persona, a “bargain-hunter” persona, or a “Brand Newbie” persona. Each of these contain demographics, psychographics, needs, pain points, and opportunities.
How does the design team use them?
Being able to concisely articulate the audience for a site is a really powerful tool for a designer. Knowing who we’re speaking to allows us write content and organize information to allow each persona to get what it is they’re after while also being aware to mitigate their pains and providing support for their needs. Without this information, we’re essentially flying blind: building a site based only our assumptions (which, depending on how thorough the Discovery work is, could be really far off target.) Getting approval on a set of Personas gives us a document to refer to when we have questions about how to reach a particular type of client.
Using the retailer example from before, let’s think about the Home page. If we want to make sure to reach out to all three of those Personas there, we might have some nice editorial photography in a hero to pique the interest of the “Fashion-conscious” persona, we might include a sale section for the “bargain-hunter,” and we might have a call out to an About page to help familiarize the “Brand Newbie” with what our brand represents.
What use are they to me?
While there are a lot of deliverables that are created in our process that have little to no use for the client outside of the context of the project, a persona is a glaring exception. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to consider Personas one of the most important documents to come out of a design project.
Well-prepared personas provide a client with an objective, third-party view of their users and clients. It’s a researched artifact that can help a company gain a concrete understanding of user types that they might have just had “inklings” about.
Most importantly, they can be invaluable to a sales team. While many companies develop similar sales Personas, for those that haven’t these can provide the sales group with valuable insights into their prospects and hopefully help them align their marketing efforts to meet their needs and ease their pains in a way not dissimilar to the project.