Our methodology is designed to ensure that personas are an authentic reflection of customer research, and to enable personas to be used as a key tool to measure online behaviour and drive digital development.
It is central to our methodology that basic decisions about user segmentation, and the attributes and behaviours attributed to personas, are founded on research rather than guesswork.
We develop personas specifically to guide:
- Digital Development: what features are of most value to which personas? How should digital activities be prioritised?
- Tracking of Customer Segments: how can an organisation track the online behaviour and user journeys of key segments?
We have been asked to create personas with some web analytic data and a couple of days of billable time. We refused as they would be pointless, but it does happen and so we would urge people to consider that if they use personas to base their design decisions upon, they must provide a strong foundation.
We use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research data to build personas and can use data that our client already has or generate new research where there are gaps. As a result each proposal for developing personas is different.
We normally start by reviewing the existing data you have about your online customers which will help to build an initial high-level segmentation.
This may include:
- Existing Qualitative Research (e.g. focus groups, usability testing) with your online customers
- Exisiting Analytics Data
- Any publicly available research data or findings about customer behaviour in your market sector.
From this, we will create an initial segmentation of the customers (e.g. by demography, device use), which we will use to recruit for qualitative research.
We will also identify “knowledge gaps”, and decide what are the issues we need to understand in more depth about your online customers’ behaviour.
- Their device behaviour: how they use different devices to access your site and what factors govern their choices
- Their needs: what are the main things that they need to find on your website; what types of reassurance are they looking for
- Their frustrations/ pain points: what aspects of your website are likely to deter them from completing a task or transaction
- Their buying behaviour: what are the key factors that influence their decision to purchase
- Their attitudes: particularly how they think about making purchases online in your market sector.
Creating the Persona
The findings of the qualitative research will be the basis for developing online customer personas – typically 4 to 6 personas in all. In some ways where personas are concerned – the fewer the better as they provide focus and design decisions are tough enough without having tiny and granular differences to worry about. But it isn’t always possible particularly with large brands with wide customer bases.
We will normally describe each persona on a single page, to a similar format illustrated below.
As shown, the persona typically includes the persona’s “name”, and some demographic indicators. It will also have a description of their online behaviours and attributes across all their digital activities and, specifically in relation to your website/market sector:
- Their device use (what devices do they use when)
- Their buying or use behaviour (dependent on the proposition)
- Their needs and frustrations (what is likely to motivate or inhibit purchase decisions)
- High value features and functionality (what would be of particular value to this persona).
Once the personas have been developed in draft, we hold a workshop with our clients project team. This allows us to present the personas and discuss how the personas can contribute to the UX strategy. It can help to avoid the personas being left on a “shelf” with a tick in the box against the project task and the development moving on regardless.
A valuable use for personas beyond the development of a new concept or proposition is to embed them into your online measurement framework. By incorporating them into the segmentation used by your online metrics software they can be referred to in performance terms. This is also useful if targets were set at the beginning of the project about adoption or growth rates.
Using personas for ongoing measurement allows you to gain an understanding of how the online activity of your customer segments is changing over time. It also reveals how changes to features and functionality affects the behaviour and user journeys of each persona.
Personas tend to be easier to visualise than abstract marketing segments and so if done properly can become quickly embedded within your digital team.
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