How to Use Personas to Develop Website Content - dummies

How to Use Personas to Develop Website Content

By David Karlins, Doug Sahlin

When you create a website for a client, part of your job is to identify the client’s intended audience. After you find out who the client’s intended audience is, find out as much about the audience as possible. Your client should be able to provide you with the majority of the information.

Armed with this information, you can tailor the content to the intended audience. In other words, the site you design connects with viewers on a personal level: a task that’s easier said than done.

Perhaps your client’s goal is to connect with visitors on a personal level, such as a politician talking to his constituents. You need to know as much as possible about every member of the target audience. If your goal is a personal-level connection, you can create one or more personas to define your client’s archetypical visitors.

A persona is a hypothetical person whose characteristics and demographics fit your client’s intended audience to a tee — and, therefore, has all the information you need to define the audience. When considering what content to use on the site, use the persona to guide you. In other words, tailor your content to the persona, and your client’s intended audience will feel as if the content were written personally for them.

Depending on the scope of your client’s intended audience, you might have to create multiple personas. For example, if the intended audience is young males between the ages of 24 and 35 with a college degree who live in the United States with income between $65,000 and $95,000 per year, you can get by with one persona.

However, if your intended audience is male and female with varying degrees of education and from varied socioeconomic groups, you’ll have to create multiple personas.

How to define your client’s customers

When creating personas, you have to rely on your client to provide the information. After all, you are a web designer, not a marketing guru. If your client is not familiar with creating personas, here are a few guidelines:

  • Create a one- or two-page description of each persona. Include information such as gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, education, profession, income, location, and so on.

  • Include information about the habits and daily routine of each persona.

  • Identify hobbies and pastimes of each persona.

  • Denote the buying patterns of each persona.

  • Determine what computer skills the persona has, as well as whether they access the Internet from a mobile device.

You’ll probably end up with between three and six target personas that define your client’s customers. If the number gets larger than that, you’ll have a hard time tailoring content for such a diverse group. The whole idea behind personas is focusing on the type of individuals who will use your client’s product or service, not the general public.

How to deliver what your customers want

With multiple personas defined, your client can begin creating content for the site. Of course, the content that your client provides will be text and possibly images, video, and audio.

The authors will create text that’s appropriate for the age, gender, and education level of the personas. Then you’ll create a navigation menu and design concurrent with the likes and computer skills of the personas as defined by your client.

When you have the initial design nailed, you start adding graphic elements, such as banners and images. If you’re using multimedia elements, such as background music, the personas defined by your client will guide you to the proper choice.

The area in which the personas live also governs the content created for the website. For example, if the personas reside locally, you’ll want to include information about your client’s local events. If the personas live in all areas of the country or world, you can include information about worldwide events pertaining to the client’s business or service.

If your client hosts webinars (web-based seminars), make sure that information is prominently displayed on your client’s site.

Another excellent way to figure out what content will be created for the site is to examine the websites of your client’s competitors to see what they’re delivering. Examine the sites with your client and whether similar content will work for his site.

When you’re examining the websites of similar businesses with your client, ask whether he offers something that his competitors do not. If so, this is the information you need to focus on. You may also find a specialty that your client offers that none of his competitors offer is strong enough to warrant a niche website.

If your client has a bricks-and-mortar business, he’ll know whether the product or service is profitable enough to warrant its own website.

To deliver what the client’s customers want, examine each product and service and find out what special benefit it offers to the customer. This will be the starting point for the content your client creates and the design you create. The content needs to focus on your client’s target market.

The target audience for the website doesn’t care how many man hours go into creating a product, whether or not your client uses the latest state-of-the art machinery to create the product; the only thing the target audience wants to tune into is radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). That’s the information the site needs to deliver, and it needs to be delivered on your customer’s terms.

After defining your client’s target audience, ask which portion of the target audience generates the most profit and also which items or services the most-profitable clients purchase. This is additional information that you and your client can use to create content for the site.

Your client will probably know the demographics of the most profitable customers. You and your client may decide that the site needs to be tailored for that portion of your client’s customers. Armed with demographics, you’ll know what type of navigation menu to create, what type of background music to use, and so on.