Personas are archetypes of users, customers or prospects whose beliefs and behavior patterns are catalogued, summarized and shared across an organization. Personas are most commonly utilized for product and website design, content marketing, customer service and selling. Teams use “sets” of personas to determine whether their designs or messaging meet their target audiences’ needs. Focusing on the end user’s needs prevents the most insidious, common, and costly of design mistakes, that of “grounding,” the tendency to create “self-referential” designs or messages.
Not all organizations or thought leaders, however, champion personas. The most frequently voiced criticism is that “personas are not actionable.” Even when based on solid primary research, the argument goes, personas are still only descriptive and therefore passive.
Usability Sciences’ persona development methodology addresses and eliminates that objection. We do so by executing our methodology against a proven mental model. We then train our customer teams to apply the mental model in a predictive manner. This creates “actionable” personas that can be used to predict with accuracy and certitude how any potential user or customer would respond to any given stimulus – a product feature, website function, promotional offer or call to action. Design or marketing decisions arrive much faster and are much less likely to need downstream revision than consensus arrived at without a set of personas.
As our customers tell us, trying to anticipate how a user will respond to a design idea without using predictive personas is little better than guessing.
Usability Sciences believes in a multiphase research approach to developing personas, and every phase of that research and construction is based on the mental model.
After learning your objectives, Usability Sciences will create a customized research solution incorporating the following research activities to ensure a high quality, cost-effective outcome.
- Analyze existing customer provided research: Many of our clients are Fortune 500 companies, which typically have an abundance of existing primary research. We filter the relevant data to establish base demographics, as well as market segments and their defining characteristics.
- Examine existing secondary research: Secondary research, or sources of information not contained in the other research activities, can add industry or social context from perspectives beyond a brand or organization’s view of their markets and customers.
- Review Channel-derived user experience data: Channel data comes in a variety of forms:
- Website survey data is often rich in attitudinal, behavioral and experiential insights that give personas authenticity and bring them to life.
- Web analytics is an abundant source of behavioral data.
- Call-center or customer service reports and transcriptions are also excellent sources of anecdotal data, as well as behavioral or attitudinal trends.
- Any touch point, in fact, can yield relevant data for the persona creation process.
- Qualitative research: This can take the form of a field study, in-depth interviews (IDIs) or focus groups. Qualitative research is best undertaken after the primary quantitative research, survey data and other data sources are analyzed.
The mental model provides a coherence and consistency to the personas that reveals the cause-and-effect mechanism at work in their decision-making processes. The resulting personas are portraits of different types of users or customers that help team members share a common vision of the target audience, saving time in decision-making and pre-empting risky guesswork. Your team will have confidence in your product or website’s design, your content marketing strategy, your call center response strategies, or your sales approaches.
Usability Sciences’ training further differentiates the value of our personas. We take a team (web design/customer service/content strategy) through a two-day workshop in which they learn predictive techniques. The workshop is a hands-on, direct application of the persona materials and the behavioral principles on which they are built. The output is a set of design decisions tested against the needs, attitudes, and behaviors of each persona.
Contact us today to better incorporate your target audience’s needs into your website.
To learn more about building and using personas, check out:
Website Personas A Practitioner’s Guide, our seven-part series that walks aspiring persona developers through the process of creating authentic, usable, and predictive personas. Each part of the series provides detailed insights into execution, along with a variety of examples taken from actual projects and the training workshops they incorporate.
Watch “Your Current Personas Need to Grow Up and Get a Life” Join Roger Beynon as he presents a webinar on developing actionable personas. Well developed personas should facilitate better content marketing, have a predictive capability, and provide visibility into the customer journey and insights into how to improve it.