Understanding your audience is one of, if not the most important factor in the design process. How well you know the target audience you are designing for will determine the level of success of your overall project. In order to achieve this and fully understand the perspective of the audience we often develop a series of user personas.
What is a user persona?
A user persona is a method, originally developed by Alan Cooper in the early 80’s, in which you create a persona (name, age, occupation etc.) who is an amalgam of different people you have identified as your target audience. Once you have established this it would then be used as a basis for designing your product, website or brand. It then becomes a helpful tool to be used to aid you through the design process as a frame of reference throughout. If you feel the design is too complex or simply wont impress the persona then you should restructure it so it will do so, allowing you to plan for the specific somebody rather than the generic everybody.
In order to create a persona to accurately represent our audience we conduct thorough research through interviews. We will select a handful of customers and ask them questions about themselves and about our clients. For example with our recent clients, Samuel Heath, we asked their customers what they liked about the company and what they felt would make them stand out from their competitors. This allowed us to not only get an insight on the customers themselves but what they would like to get out of an experience with the new website we were designing.
When do you use user personas?
When it comes to web design, we find it an essential part of the process to develop several user personas. We will create personas that we feel will represent the target audience accurately that we are focussing on. Having a specific persona in mind is helpful when dissecting the design and ensuring it speaks to all audiences, e.g. Gene, 50, Manager of a small business would want the website to be simplistic and easy to manoeuvre around as he wouldn’t be as ‘tech savvy’ as say a 20 year old graphic designer. Our projects often have to translate clearly to people from all different age ranges and occupations, so it is vital for use to be able to perceive the project consistently through all these different perspectives and user personas are an ideal way to do so.
As designers it’s our job to design for others, but we are inevitably biased as we can only see the world through our own eyes. It is crucial that we are able to perceive the world through the point of view and be able to tap into the mind of our audience in order to achieve success within our work. We find user personas the most efficient way to do so which is why it is one of the key methods we implement into the design process of a website.