The initial stages of your app or website design process can be overwhelming, particularly if you have two or more key messages to communicate about your service or product. Having worked with consultants and businesses who are both fantastic and proud at what they do, oftentimes their website fails to express the unique core values to their user.

Maybe your business has multiple customer segments but you’re confused as to how to address their collective needs online. Or perhaps you’re wondering how to establish a uniform brand while not alienating some of the users who may belong to a separate service category. Before you start generating ideas of how your website can resonate with your customers, it’s crucial to first understand who these guys or gals are.

Why Personas?

You already know who your customer is but it’s all in your head. After talking to your customers and potential customers, the persona framework provides a quick and easy way to lay out your research to help you interpret all this information. Not only should you be having a conversation with your users, it’s important to ask the right questions so that you get a sense of how your website or app should be designed so that it speaks to them.

By giving your persona a fictional name and appearance, you help to solidify the image of the persona in your mind. When choosing which design or marketing decisions to prioritise, it will be so much easier to approach each decision based on the question “How is this going to provide value to my persona?”

Easy ways to gather information for building your persona:

Talk to Existing Clients

Start by having conversations with your existing clientele or potential clients about their goals, frustrations and approaches towards the service you are offering. Be sure to listen intently without imposing your own ideas as this is the best way to interview clients using empathy.

Think about questions such as, who are they? Do they have a family? What do they like to do on weekends? What are their biggest goals and frustrations when it comes to your industry? What is their morning commute like? What is their professional role? and so forth. You’ll gradually begin to get a grasp of what their feelings are like towards the solution you’re offering.

Conduct Surveys

Sometimes long distance surveys can work and can provide you with a base for your research. Surveys can be particularly useful when you want to assess results across a spectrum of predefined issues at scale. Usually they are used as screeners to pre-recruit interviewees.

The problem with when you solely rely on users to return a survey is that they may see surveys as a chore and want to spend the least amount of time filling it in. This means you could be missing out on valuable insights you might obtain from face to face interviews. Try if possible to follow up surveys with phone calls or face to face interviews to dive deeper into your users’ intentions.

Scheduling Up to Five User Interviews

Set aside up to 30 minutes with five users to talk about their goals and frustrations surrounding your field. It’s preferable to have some helping hands to take notes, check the time and record the interview, but this can also be done solo. Don’t feel obliged to stick strictly to your questions as often you’ll learn some valuable insights through probing and digging deep. Most simply, your tools of the trade will include a pen, your notebook and your phone to record the interview for later perusal.

Using This Persona Template

Once you’ve gathered sufficient research, use this free persona template and guide to compile your findings into 1-3 persona types.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “but Linda, what does this all mean? How am I going to apply my new personas to this website?”

The insights from your personas can be used to inform decisions at varying stages of your web design process. For instance, it can be as big as realising you were about to sign off on a website designed for the architect when in fact it needs to appeal to the decision-making project manager. Perhaps emphasising the fact that your persona is time-poor means that your content needs to be succinct and straight to the point. It could also influence your interface (UI) if you realise that majority of your users are going to be women aged between 30 - 45.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used UX personas before and how it’s impacted your project. Now go ahead and download this guide and template I created just for you.