As websites continue to evolve, flashy graphics and animations have fallen to the wayside in favor of great user experience. But as a designer or developer, how do you channel the “user” when making decisions? Is the “user” the entire web-surfing population? How are we supposed to make decisions that benefit such a massive audience? The simple answer is, you don’t.
Enter personas. These short and concise documents allow you to answer usability questions based on your target audience(s).
What is a Persona?
In order to create a meaningful persona you need to address some high level questions about your project.
Here are some examples to get the ball rolling:
- What is the main goal of the website?
- What are the specific site features that must be tested?
- How many distinct audience segments are being targeted?
- Will there be a hierarchy of users/personas?
Once you address some of these broader questions you will need to conduct a fair amount of research to address the correct demographics and behaviors of your personas. Each persona should represent one targeted user group. Below are some factors that could play into making your personas.
Putting Personas into Action
You have done your research and have built out your personas, now what? These fictional people should be involved in your project until the very end. It may benefit you to treat these personas as your project stakeholders—if one isn’t happy or is left out, you may need to make adjustments. In web design the people working on the project should never be saying “well I think this…” or “I would use it like this…”. All usability debates and questions should be filtered through the vantage point of the personas.
For example, let’s say on an e-commerce website there is some questionable functionality when adding an item to the shopping cart. Your first layer of testing should be trying the functionality as each of your personas. You may find that Christina (Persona A, age 28 with a high level of technical savvy) can maneuver the functionality quite easily. But you may also find that Thomas (Persona C, age 62 and new to using the Internet) finds it frustrating and gives up with his order. The more you humanize your personas, the more you will be able to effectively involve them in all of your UX testing.
Making Your Own Personas
Every project will be different and will require a different set of information, but I highly suggest you build out a basic Persona Template. This will help you fill in all of the basic information that you may need. From this template you can also go into more detail that a particular project may require. To give you some inspiration, the basic persona template that we use at BKI is attached below.