Web Design Personas

Published on Feb 13 2015 by David Cooper

In a recent article published by Marco entitled ‘Engagement and Task Completion’ he explained that one of the first questions he frequently asks a prospective client is, "why do you need a new website?"

Fundamentally, this should be the first question for any business decision.
Why do I need a X? is an undervalued question in ascertaining any real value for you and your customer base.

To provide a fair and firm value to you and your customers, the first question many fail to ask is: ‘Who are our customers and what do they need.” One of the simplest, oldest and most effective ways of defining this group is through ‘User Personas’.

Understanding Your Needs 

A web user design persona is a thinking tool used to flesh out the purchase behaviour of a current or prospective customer. Understanding needs, motivations, individual characteristics and purchase area of your customer will enable a clearer idea as to why you need a website.

For example in a business to consumer context:

Your current data might show that your target market is females, between 20-30 located within 10 km of your grocery store in Geelong.

From this information we can create Alex, a 28 year old law student from Geelong who buys all of her groceries online. Research shows that women Alex’s age in a similar area are well connected to mobile shopping, time poor and favour convenience. It becomes clearer from here that investing in a fully capable, mobile responsive e-commerce site is best suited for our market.

A Business to Business web design persona may be a little more like this:

The structure of your business is to sell plumbing parts. Due to the time restraints of task completion, you realise that your clients will only travel within the surrounding suburbs to purchase your goods. These orders are placed online 50% of the time. The target market becomes plumbing services located within the area of Inner North Melbourne area with over 10 personnel.

In comes Harry, a 50-year-old plumber from Northcote who receives client requests from his desktop in the office. He then lodges his parts requests through your website and picks up the parts accordingly. 

Comparing the Users

The two very simple users illustrate the drastic differences between the various pathways a website can take. On one hand we have a fully functional, mobile focused, e-commerce site with many product listings and a postage output. The age of Alex’s demographic shows high internet use on the go, with 60% of time spent accessing the internet on a mobile device.

On the other hand, Harry needs a firm and easy to understand site with similar functions.

However, because the target market has changed, the format of the website needs to fit into accessibility guidelines for working with the older generation. The site needs to have the bare minimum features of:

Information broken into shorter sections.
- Clear instructions on the buying process.
- Single mouse clicks where possible.
- Additional space around clickable targets.
- 12- or 14-point type size, and make it easy for users to enlarge text.
- High-contrast color combinations, such as black type against a white background.
- A speech function to hear text read aloud.
- Text-only versions of multimedia content.
- Minimal scrolling

This paints a very clear contrast between the two users. A simple process will now save numerous hours in user experience research and improve the process for buyers on your site.

Scope and function diagnosis, based upon the needs of your users will help prevent scope creep in the later parts of the project. Web design personas make this diagnosis easier and sometimes entertaining.

Images Credit: http://www.stockfootageforfree.com/