Personas, Audience and Web Design

It is almost common knowledge that maintaining a user friendly interface is a key factor when developing a website. This is especially true if you are looking to recruit membership or get people to purchase items or services from your site. While there are many factors that affect the usability of a site and how it should be structured; I have decided to touch on one essential piece to the web puzzle: knowing your audience.

Knowing your audience is essential when building your site because you need to know what the user’s goal is going to be when visiting your site. User profiling is one way to gain audience knowledge to assist in building a user-friendly website infrastructure. From these profile(s), administrators are able to develop various web personalities to suit each audience. While these internet personalities are essentially representing real people, the reactions of each persona may differ depending on the client he/she is speaking with. This web persona also allows facilitators to answer questions or assist the user while drawing parallels with the user’s own personality (building a rapport).

For example, at my current place of employment we all have different web personalities depending on who we are talking to. If we are talking to a broker or banker our tone tends to be firm, and the pricing they see on the website is what they get. Now, on the other hand, when speaking with a credit union I have noticed that my entire office is friendlier and we tend to send out more catered marketing materials than we would for typical lenders. Additionally, credit unions receive a fun, comic version of our slideshow as well as an offer for a free appraisal and link to download all of our marketing collateral.

We treat credit unions, bankers, and brokers differently because the latter two tend to be “for profit” whereas credit unions are more concerned with their members, not their profit margins. There are of course other factors as well that play into our differing treatment for these institutions, however, the main idea here is that we have developed a profile for each type of lender and cater all of our marketing collateral to their specific needs. So far it has proven to be extremely effective in getting these lenders to engage in conversation.

You may be wondering where to start collecting the kind of data needed to build such profiles. This information can be collected at almost any time, but the most typical methods are via interview sessions, questionnaires, and basic online market research. The key thing to remember when conducting this kind of research is finding out how the user would like to navigate through your site, and what his/her goals are while visiting.

Once you have collected the data needed to complete the profiles it’s time to step back and analyze the audience(s) as a whole. This analysis would consist of a description of the audience(s), categorized in accordance to demographics. A standard analysis will typically illustrate a few different types of audiences along with what they plan to do at your site (the scenarios). The persona is considered the ‘design discussion.’ It can be illustrated by text or charts and looks at all scenarios to decide which reactions would work best with which types of customers. These scenarios are meant to define the motivation and goals for specific parts of the target audience.

The more you know about your audience the better you will be able to cater your services to them. Catered services mean a good rapport and a happy, returning customer.


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