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Personas are a great tool for focusing the organisation on users and their goals.

Why do it?

Personas bring the user alive. They are ‘archetypal’ users – telling stories about users to give everyone in the organisation a collective understanding of who the users are and what they want.

They act as ‘stand ins’ for real users and help guide decisions about site aims, content, functionality and design; they allow teams to focus on the issues of greatest importance to users and avoid producing irrelevant content or functionality.

They also help all internal stakeholders to ‘walk in their users’ shoes’ and look at things from a different perspective to their own: it’s very difficult, for example, for a 25 year old single male web developer to understand things from the perspective of a 49 year old mother of two who’s trying to juggle work and home life!

How we do it

We talk to you

Initially we talk with people in the client organisation – members of the digital team and other relevant people in the organisation – in order to understand who the users are and the types of goals they may have (and are goals that the organisation wishes to support). Talking to frontline staff is often really useful as these are the people who encounter users’ everyday frustrations and so have real insight into what would make users lives easier! Following that we then agree with the client the types of people we want to interview or observe in order to get the data we need to produce the personas.

We talk to your users

We then undertake research with end users. This could be a one or a mix of methodologies including depth interviews, ethnographic research in the field, focus groups, diary studies and surveys. We explore why they want information relevant to our client’s product or service, what information they want, how they go about getting this information, the pain points and frustrations at getting that information, what they do with the information once they’ve got it. We can also understand their contexts, their digital habits and devices they use.

We analyse the results

Following the research we undertake a qualitative analysis by developing a matrix of user types against goals and looking for groupings and connections. From this we start to identify separate personas – groups of users who have the same goals: we believe clarity about users and goals is the most important part of a persona. We can then develop the personas by describing them with elements that will aid memorability and inform the design and content such as:

  • Representative photo
  • Name (we like alliterative names that link with the persona type e.g. Careers adviser Cathy)
  • Conversational quote to illustrate the persona’s key goals
  • Representative ‘personal’ details (e.g. gender, age, home location, marital status, children, home ownership, etc.)
  • Context and experience level for using product/service
  • Their motivations for using the site
  • The goals they want to achieve on the site (e.g. for Careers adviser Cathy her goals are find resources to support my work, organise events and work experience, and support young
  • people in their career journey).
  • Their painpoints and barriers
  • Digital device usage
  • Other contact points with the organisation (e.g. social media, face-to-face)

We develop the personas with you

We take these embryonic personas and discuss them in a workshop with the client to refine them and get buy-in from the people who will be living with and using them. Following this we finalise the personas. But it is important that the personas are owned by the organisation and are not the “consultant’s solution”.

They can then start to live in the organisation to drive scenarios and generate user stories, user journey maps and content that the users want to deliver a truly user centred website.

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