Your site has hordes of visitors every day clamoring to check out the vintage comics you sell. But what do you know about your visitors? Are they die-hard fans of specific series? Older folks caught in childhood nostalgia? Rather than make assumptions, create personas of your users.
A persona is “a realistic personality profile that represents a significant group of your users,” according to Steve Mulder, author of “The User Is Always Right.” But why should you take the time and energy to create personas? Personas:
- focus on the visitors who matter most.
- allow businesses to relate to and understand those visitors.
- help you build consensus among your web team.
Creating persons sounds daunting—if you think you have to document every person who goes to your site. Not so. Instead,”try to boil it down to the three or five distinct subsets of your users that represent all the people that matter,” says Mark O’ Brien, Newfangled president and presenter at the MarketingProfs seminar Cure for the Common Website: Using Personas to Boost Site Performance
Personas should represent visitors who influence purchases—whether in buying or encouraging others to do so. O’Brien suggests that, if you have trouble coming up with three distinct personality types, then use the three stages of purchasing. Then choose whether to take a qualitative or a quantitative approach to this process. A qualitative approach means getting an idea of who the people are and the emotional decisions they make. A quantitative approach focuses on the exact facts. For your comic book shop, it would be who your site visitors are, which comic books they bought last year, how many of each issue, how old they are, etc. O’Brien recommends the qualitative approach in the seminar because it takes just two to four weeks to craft those personas.
10 Questions, 15 Subjects
Once you’ve chosen 15 subjects from your significant visitors, O’Brien suggests running them through these questions:
- What were your impressions when you got to the current website?
- Did you come back to the site? What encouraged you to return?
- How often do you visit the site and for what purpose?
- Are you familiar with our area of expertise? Are you just learning about it and our site is a research tool? Are you a competitor?
- If you do have an understanding of our area of expertise, what other sites have been good resources in this area?
- What do you dislike about those sites? Do you prefer ours?
- What do you do on the site? Do you: check press releases, sign up for newsletters, download white papers, etc.?
- How would you describe our site to a peer?
- How would you like feature X?” (Use this question to bounce ideas off people about a feature that you are considering adding to the site.)
- What is the No. 1 thing we could do improve our site?
That last question is the most important one. “It’s last on purpose,” says O’Brien, “because unless the conversation is really primed, and they feel comfortable, and they’re open to talking with you about these things, they’re probably not going to be able to answer the last question very effectively. It’s one of those loaded questions that could intimidate people.”
What to Do Next
Start segmenting by user goals and stage in the sales cycle. “We’ve done the 15 interviews, and now we need to figure out three to five segments that these 15 people will all very neatly fit into,” says O’Brien. “Again, this is an intuitive and nonscientific process. Go with your gut.”
- Are the segments unique enough? Do they stand on their own as individual segments? Do they feel like real people?
- When you’re creating the segment, could you envision somebody with these goals and these attitudes towards your site?
- Can they be easily described?
- Do they cover all key user types?
- Is it clear how these segments will effect decision-making? Is it clear how your planning committee will be able to use these personas as a guide to bring them to consensus-based and effective decisions?
If the segments you created don’t work, don’t worry. It’s rare to get it right the first time. Just go back (maybe even a few times) and re-create some segments based on the 15 interviews. Once you’ve got some rough sketches of those personas, add the details. “We’re just gleaning these (details),” says O’Brien, “from both the interviews, which we know very well, and also our understanding of our market.”
All done? Don’t forget to put these personas in a sheet so they can be printed and shared. And prioritize them, so you know which one has the most pull.
To learn about getting the most out of personas and boost your site’s performance, attend the MarketingProfs seminar Cure for the Common Website: Using Personas to Boost Site Performance presented by Web developer and marketer O’Brien. PRO members can view the on-demand 90-minute seminar for free; Basic members pay just $129.