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The User Is Always Right: Making Personas Work for Your Site


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How do we ensure that our Web sites actually give users what they need and deliver results? Personas bring user research to life and make it actionable, ensuring we're making the right decisions based on the right information. Discover the latest techniques for creating personas, including advice on conducting user interviews, new methods for applying quantitative research such as surveys and log file analysis, approaches for generating persona segmentation, and fun ideas for making your personas real. It's time to take personas to the next level.

Published in: Business, Technology

The User Is Always Right: Making Personas Work for Your Site

  1. 1. Making Personas Work for Your Site Steve Mulder
  2. 2. Business results depend on satisfying users You are not your user Learning about users requires direct contact Knowledge about users must be actionable Decisions should be based on users
  3. 5. Personas bring focus
  4. 6. Personas build empathy
  5. 7. Personas encourage consensus
  6. 8. Personas create efficiency
  7. 9. Personas lead to better decisions Personas for Design Information architecture, interaction design, visual design, content development, user testing Personas for Marketing Framework for marketing campaigns, branding, messaging, market research Personas for Strategy Framework for business decisions, offerings, channel usage, features
  8. 10. Creating Personas
  9. 11. The Landscape of User Research and Testing User Interviews QUALITATIVE (INSIGHTS) GOALS & ATTITUDES (ASPIRATIONAL) BEHAVIORS (ACTUAL) User Surveys Usability Testing Site Traffic/ Log File Analysis Eye Tracking Field Studies (Contextual Inquiry) Shadow Shopping (Shop-Along) Intercepts Customer Support Data Card Sorting Focus Groups Diary/Journal Studies Participatory Design User Advisory Panel Automated Usability Testing User Reports Collages QUANTITATIVE (VALIDATION) A/B Testing
  10. 12. Qualitative Personas
  11. 13. User Interviews <ul><li>Cross-section of online customers, offline customers, non-customers, other audiences </li></ul><ul><li>15 interviews is a good starting point </li></ul><ul><li>Informal, loosely structured conversations </li></ul>
  12. 14. User Interviews: Topics <ul><li>History with the company </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Intro to company, usage/purchase history, early impressions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Domain experience and knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Domain expertise, competitors, share of wallet </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Goals and behaviors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Needs/triggers for usage, typical process , channel usage, feature and content usage, gaps, wish list </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Attitudes and motivators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Description of experience, likes/dislikes, influencers, psychological drivers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Opportunities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reaction to new ideas, features, content, improvements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Observation of actual behavior (field studies, usability tests) </li></ul>
  13. 15. Segmentation Goals Behaviors Attitudes
  14. 16. Segmentation: Marketing vs. Personas <ul><li>Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Sell to people </li></ul>Personas Understand how people will actually use the site Age Income Gender Other demographics Goals Behaviors Attitudes
  15. 17. Segmentation by Goals <ul><li>What are different people trying to do on the site? </li></ul><ul><li>Hierarchy of Goals </li></ul><ul><li>Other goals: </li></ul><ul><li>Buy commercial property </li></ul><ul><li>Find an apartment </li></ul><ul><li>Sell a house </li></ul>Be happy Be independent Buy a house Understand process Learn about points Motivator Motivator Goal Need Task <ul><li>Get a mortgage loan </li></ul><ul><li>Get insurance </li></ul><ul><li>Find a moving company </li></ul>
  16. 18. Segmentation by Behaviors and Attitudes <ul><li>How do users differ based on what they do or how they think? </li></ul><ul><li>Behaviors: </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency of real estate activity </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency of visits to the site </li></ul><ul><li>Channel usage for various needs </li></ul><ul><li>Use of competitors </li></ul><ul><li>Attitudes: </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge about real estate </li></ul><ul><li>Motivators affecting users’ likelihood to buy or sell </li></ul><ul><li>Perception of the company/brand </li></ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul>
  17. 19. Segmentation by Behaviors and Attitudes <ul><li>Explore different combinations </li></ul>Frequency of real estate activity Knowledge about real estate The risk-taker who thinks he knows more than he actually does The novice who needs a lot of guidance The pro who wants to use site tools and doesn’t need help The smart one who wants validation of what she already knows
  18. 20. Segmentation by Behaviors and Attitudes <ul><li>FedEx segmentation </li></ul>Level of preparation Desired level of personal interaction Me
  19. 21. Segmentation: The Tests <ul><li>Your segments should… </li></ul><ul><li>Explain key differences you’ve observed among users </li></ul><ul><li>Be different enough from each other </li></ul><ul><li>Feel like real people </li></ul><ul><li>Be described quickly </li></ul><ul><li>Cover all users </li></ul><ul><li>Clearly affect decision making </li></ul>
  20. 22. Qualitative Personas with Quantitative Validation
  21. 23. Surveys
  22. 24. Surveys: Who <ul><li>Cross-section of users </li></ul><ul><li>Goal: 100+ completions per segment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>17,000 emails @ 3% completion rate = 500 completions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Incentives and reminders can boost completion rate </li></ul>
  23. 25. Surveys: What <ul><li>Questions to gather data on segmentation attributes (dependent variables) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goal for visiting site (buy home, find apartment, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Frequency of site visits for each possible user goal </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of each possible goal to the user </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge of real estate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Previous real estate experiences </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>User’s self-perception of real estate expertise </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Questions to test the segmentation against (independent variables) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Other behaviors (site/channel usage, feature usage, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other attitudes (toward company, about self, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New features and content to test </li></ul></ul>
  24. 26. Surveys: What <ul><li>Recommended order of questions: </li></ul><ul><li>Current goals, usage, and behavior, including channel usage </li></ul><ul><li>History with the site and company </li></ul><ul><li>User of or importance of existing features and content </li></ul><ul><li>Satisfaction with existing features and content </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of new features and content </li></ul><ul><li>Psychographic questions </li></ul><ul><li>Demographic questions </li></ul>
  25. 27. Site Traffic Analysis <ul><li>Entry pages </li></ul><ul><li>Referrers </li></ul><ul><li>Exit pages </li></ul><ul><li>Common paths </li></ul><ul><li>Feature usage </li></ul><ul><li>Search terms </li></ul><ul><li>Conversion rate </li></ul><ul><li>Duration </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency </li></ul>
  26. 28. CRM Data <ul><li>Annual spending </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency of purchase </li></ul><ul><li>Products or services purchased </li></ul><ul><li>Channel usage </li></ul><ul><li>Customer support usage </li></ul><ul><li>Length of time as a customer </li></ul>
  27. 29. Quantitative Nirvana: Complete User Portrait <ul><li>Survey data </li></ul>What the user does <ul><li>Site traffic analysis </li></ul><ul><li>CRM data </li></ul><ul><li>Self-reported survey data </li></ul>What the user says What the user is worth <ul><li>CRM data </li></ul><ul><li>Self-reported survey data </li></ul>
  28. 30. Testing the Segmentation <ul><li>Cross-tabs (pivot tables) in Excel </li></ul>
  29. 31. Quantitative Personas
  30. 32. Quantitative Segmentation
  31. 33. Quantitative Segmentation
  32. 34. Quantitative Segmentation
  33. 35. Making Personas Real
  34. 36. Components of a Persona
  35. 37. Photo <ul><li> </li></ul>
  36. 38. Scenarios Francis and Michael have agreed that she’ll take charge of learning more about the home-buying process. She goes online, does a Google search for “Atlanta real estate,” and follows a link to the site’s home page. She sees that she can search for houses from the home page, so just for fun, she does a quick Atlanta search to see what kinds of houses show up. There are lots of houses in many different neighborhoods, and she easily narrows her results down to the area where she and Michael live, using a map. There are still many results, and she’s not quite sure which search options to use to narrow the search further. Then she notices a link for first-time home buyers and follows, it hoping for basic how-to information. The link takes Francis to a step-by-step tutorial that explains the whole process, and she immediately feels like she’s found the right site from which to begin her house search. She carefully reads some articles for first-time home buyers, taking notes as she reads. She bookmarks other articles she wants to go back and read later. She also comes across the site’s calculator and starts trying different combinations of numbers to find out what she and Michael can afford. She particularly likes the glossary of terms so that she can finally figure out what “points” are and learn more about different types of mortgages. After an hour and a half of reading, her brain is full, and she shuts her computer down for the day, feeling like she got an excellent start. The next day, she comes back to the site to look up information specific to Atlanta neighborhoods and finds lots of information on each. She’s able to focus on five neighborhoods that look particularly good. The fun begins that night, when she takes Michael through all that she has learned, and they set up a regular schedule for looking at online house listings.
  37. 39. Using Personas
  38. 40. Persona Document
  39. 41. Persona Cards
  40. 42. Lifesize Cutouts
  41. 43. Persona Cubicle
  42. 44. Other Ideas for Keeping Personas Alive <ul><li>Posters </li></ul><ul><li>Tchotchkes </li></ul><ul><li>Day-in-the-life photos, audio diaries, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Role-playing </li></ul><ul><li>Quizzes </li></ul><ul><li>Staple to documents </li></ul><ul><li>Email addresses </li></ul>
  43. 45. Business Strategy
  44. 46. Features and Functionality
  45. 47. Features and Functionality: Brainstorming <ul><li>Francis’ Goals </li></ul><ul><li>Learn about the home-buying process </li></ul><ul><li>Find out what she can afford </li></ul><ul><li>Discover what areas of Atlanta are desirable </li></ul><ul><li>Find a house that matches her criteria </li></ul>Business Objectives Visit the site often Register for email alerts and newsletters Subscribe to premium services Recommend the site to others Possible Features and Content Introductory how-to articles Glossary of jargon Videos and podcasts Success stories Q&A with experts Message board Blogs Rent vs. own calculator Local experts to call/meet Checklists to print Interactive quizzes Common mistakes Animated cartoons Book recommendations
  46. 48. Features and Functionality: Prioritizing
  47. 49. Structure
  48. 50. Structure: Task Analysis <ul><li>Search for houses from home page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Enter location by city and state, or zip code </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enter price range </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enter number of bedrooms and/or bathrooms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Submit search </li></ul></ul><ul><li>View and narrow results </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Browse first page of results: photo, price, address, basic stats, and description </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Click to show results on map </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Click map to narrow results to one neighborhood </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Browse new results </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Read tutorial </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Click link for first-time home buyers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Read landing page for learning area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Click teaser for step-by-step tutorial </li></ul></ul><ul><li>And so on… </li></ul>
  49. 51. Structure: Use Cases <ul><li>Search for Houses </li></ul><ul><li>Level: User goal </li></ul><ul><li>Primary actor: Francis the First-Time Home Buyer </li></ul><ul><li>Preconditions: </li></ul><ul><li>Francis arrives at home page or House Search landing page </li></ul><ul><li>Main success scenario: </li></ul><ul><li>Francis enters city and state or zip code. </li></ul><ul><li>System uses auto-completion to show options below search field as Francis types. System shows up to 10 matching city names in order of number of homes for sale in each city. Francis can click a city name to select that city. </li></ul><ul><li>Francis selects minimum and maximum price values from drop-down menus. </li></ul><ul><li>System validates selected values. </li></ul><ul><li>Francis selects number of bedrooms and bathrooms from drop-down menus. </li></ul><ul><li>Francis submits search. </li></ul><ul><li>System validates required fields before submitting query. </li></ul>
  50. 52. Structure: Information Architecture
  51. 53. Structure: Information Architecture
  52. 54. Structure: Navigation
  53. 55. Structure: Site Search
  54. 56. Content <ul><li>Articles or product descriptions </li></ul><ul><li>Instructional text </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation and help </li></ul><ul><li>Error messages </li></ul><ul><li>Imagery </li></ul><ul><li>Sound </li></ul><ul><li>Video </li></ul>
  55. 57. Content: Word Cloud
  56. 58. Design
  57. 59. Design: Mood Board
  58. 60. Design: Appealing to All Personas
  59. 61. Testing and Measuring Success <ul><li>QA process </li></ul><ul><li>Usability testing </li></ul><ul><li>Log files </li></ul><ul><li>Survey </li></ul><ul><li>Predictive modeling </li></ul>
  60. 62. <ul><li>Steve Mulder [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>Thanks!