The who, what, where, when and why of user personas.

What are we talking about?

Personas – Your audience personalities!

Why should I bother with personas?
A persona is a created representation of who visits your website and WHY. It is based on research and helps you get past the ‘our site is for everyone’ phenomenon. They are an easy way to present your audience; based on all the data you have about who is visiting your site and why.

Who is doing this extremely well?
Foundation Fighting Blindness really wanted to understand who was coming to their site and for what exact information. They posted a survey on social media, on the thank you page, on a campaign and added a light box on their homepage. They even asked their monthly e-news subscribers for their opinion. What they found out is that a majority of their supporters are caregivers and not those who actually have an eye condition. They want support, help finding a community and to become as educated as possible on their loved one’s eye condition. Even though this sounds like common sense, it’s shifting how the content is being presented on the site and will be geared towards a better user experience for those who feel overwhelmed with their eye condition and how the site can better entice them to keep coming back for more.

Why does it matter?
You have to know who your audience is to enhance the user experience on your site. If you don’t know what the key needs and goals of your audience are, how do you know what content and campaigns are going to really guide them to supporting you?

Where should I start on execution?
Put up a simple survey on your site asking for your audience’s opinion. Keep it short and sweet and ask them, why are you here and did you get what you are looking for? If you have no idea who is visiting your site, ask for more demographic information like, age. Need to understand what their connection is to your organization? Ask a simple question why they support you. If you have the time, segment your survey based on action too. So instead of just putting a survey on your homepage as a lightbox, ask them to contribute their opinion after a donation on the thank you page or after they submitted an action alert. They were passionate enough to support you, most of the time, you’ll see the biggest response from these folks!

How can I learn more?
–    Lynda.com: Need more education on what a persona is? Lynda.com is a great website that has a great set of videos and blog posts to help educate you on the process and need.
–    I love Twitter for many reasons, but the #1 reason is to be able to follow trends in UX design. My ultimate top 5:
o    Smashing UX Design @SmashingUXD
o    UX Magazine @uxmag
o    Jared Spool from UIE @jmspool
o    Jacob Nielsen @NNgroup
o    Charity Dynamics @CharityDynamics (come on, you know I had to mention this)