We’ve talked a lot about personas on our blog, and the value they can provide to higher education institutions in particular. Still, we find that our clients don’t always understand how user personas fit into the web design process as a whole, and how crucial they are in forming a successful content strategy.
User personas are created as part of the first phase of any web design project and are used throughout a website’s lifespan as a tool to evaluate content and features. After extensive user research and qualitative interviews, we begin segmenting website users based on multiple factors, such as demographics, informational needs, goals, and motivations. User personas ultimately help us understand exactly what types of content and features would best address the needs of our client’s users. In this post, we break down what user personas are and how they enable us to create a seamless user experience.
What are user personas?
As a user-centered design agency, our focus is to create digital experiences that are tailor-made for our client’s target audience. None of this would be possible without first having a firm grasp on who those users are.
User personas are part art and part science. They’re fictional representations of a single person that represent your key website user groups, but based on research. Although user personas are depicted as specific people, it’s important to remember that they’re not real individuals. User personas are meant to synthesize the observations of multiple people. They’re representative mindsets that feature specific demographic information, background stories, and common pain points.
Personas are useful to:
- Keep users’ experience and priorities top of mind
- Evaluate and prioritize content and site feature ideas
- Build empathy for your users and can lead to key insights about their goals
Personas do NOT:
- Represent fixed, precise definitions of your users
Why do user personas matter?
User personas are important because they’re at the heart of your website’s content strategy. To be successful, your web content should be appropriate for your brand, your users, and for its context. Your content needs to be appropriate in its method of delivery, style and structure, and above all in its substance. User personas help determine what “appropriate” means for your users, and how you can adjust your content strategy to meet their needs.
From a website designer’s perspective, user personas are useful because they enable them to focus on specific subsets of users they are designing for rather than trying to please thousands of people. Because personas represent groups of users in the real world, designers are able to create different designs that align with the needs of each persona. The result is a user experience that feels personal and custom-made, rather than one that’s generic and out of touch.
What happens after user personas are created and the content strategy phase is complete? Next is information architecture – the process of structuring things (in this case, web pages and digital content) in a way that helps people understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for. It just so happens that we’ve written two posts explaining the two key deliverables in the IA phase of our web design process: site maps and wireframes.
If you still have questions about our website design process, don’t hesitate to reach out. We love chatting about what we do and why we do it.