Use Personas to Improve Your Web Site for Customers

When you create a persona to represent your Web site customers, you can use it to apply case studies to your site, evaluate new features and products, test new design elements, and ensure that your customer service is actually helpful to customers.

Once you have created your persona — you’ve named her, you know where she comes from, and you know what she’s looking for — you can put the persona into action. Use your persona to role-play the following:

  • Case studies. Imagine your persona coming to your Web site for various purposes. Walk through the processes the persona would use.

  • User testing. Using your persona, try out a feature of your Web site. You can also use your persona when running different keyword searches, starting at a search engine, and find out how quickly relevant information can be found on your site.

  • New feature evaluation. Try out any new pages or features of your Web site from your various personas' points of view and see how easy they are to use.

  • Product decisions. Coming from each of your personas’ perspectives, think through how useful a new product would be. You may be able to identify whether the product meets a typical user’s need as is, or needs some value add-on to have better marketability.

  • Design decisions. See your Web site design through a persona’s eyes to determine whether the colors, placement, layout, bells and whistles, and other design elements make it easier or harder for visitors to achieve their goals.

  • Customer service. Use your personas to find out how easy it is to get help when using your Web site. Remember, your Web persona doesn’t know that you have an exhaustive Help system linked from the site map, or that clicking a tiny link somewhere in the footer launches a live chat window. The persona only knows what it can easily see during its process, so this is a valuable way to find weaknesses in your Web site.

Here is an example of a persona and how you can put it to use:

Jane is a competitive personality. Social status is very important to her and she appreciates it in others. She tends to be impulsive and doesn’t mind the impersonality of doing things online as long as she is able to get what she needs quickly and efficiently. She is looking for verifiable results and quantifiable bottom lines. Social interaction is not important to her. She is willing to pay more to get a little extra. She is unmarried and does not see marriage in her near future.

Jane is very Internet-savvy and uses the Internet for 10 or more hours per day. She has multiple e-mail accounts from various service providers and does all of her shopping and banking online. Jane works for an Internet company and has just purchased a modest condo in the suburbs outside a large metropolitan city.

By analyzing the profile of Jane, you can better target her needs. Based on this, you can see that her primary concern is for quick, expert information. Jane is an impulsive buyer; the key to acquiring her conversion is to give her information in a quick, easy-to-read format while touching on her desire for prestige. You can guess that when she first visits your site, her eye quickly scans the content for keywords. If you lose her interest for a moment, she's gone.

The profile also gives you an idea of Jane’s experience level with your product. This can help you decide how to target her. Here are two example scenarios:

Scenario A — Jane at a technology-related Web site. If you are a technology company, you know that Jane has a certain experience level with your breed of product. You can assume that Jane likely understands the basic workings of your merchandise without you having to break things down step-by-step. Based on her Internet savvy, you know she likely has little or no problem navigating through your site, but if she doesn’t find what she’s looking for immediately, she will likely take off and visit one of your competitor sites. At this stage in her life, brand loyalty comes second to quick service.

Scenario B — Jane at a non-technical Web site. If your product is home- and garden-related, you know that Jane needs a lot of detailed information to better understand how your product or service could benefit her. You need to make sure your information is presented upfront so that Jane doesn't wander away from your site. You know that Jane just purchased her first home. It’s likely she is looking for easy ways to spruce it up. How can you gear your marketing campaign to address this? Perhaps there’s a way to market your product as a “timesaver” so that she can focus on other things. Is Jane likely to have a pet? Maybe your product can do a better job of keeping her pet safe. By understanding Jane, it allows you to target her more efficiently.

Using Jane’s persona helps you identify the language that most likely appeals to her and satisfies her motivations and needs. When you're testing out new features or campaign plans, make sure to keep Jane in mind. Ask yourself these types of questions for each of your personas:

  • Benefits. Does this feature offer a clear benefit to this persona?

  • Level of explanation. What, if anything, do I need to provide this persona with to help her understand this benefit?

  • Wording. What kind of language should I use? Does this persona understand industry jargon, or do I need to define terms in the page content for her?

  • Style. How can my writing style fit this persona, and give her what she’s looking for most naturally and directly?

  • Tone. What tone would seem most natural to this persona? Would a tone that’s friendly, professional, enthusiastic, subdued, energetic, calm, or other best suit her goals and influence her to stay on the site and move toward my Web page’s goal?

  • Clarity. Does this persona realize the problem this feature is supposed to address? How much do I need to spell out?

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