Does he have a beard?

16th July 2015

I think we’re all familiar with Guess Who, that profiling/stereotyping board game from more innocent years that provided hours of fun for the family. Thankfully, the development of user personas is a little more refined than simply Yes/No questions and the flipping of a few tiles.

At the start of every project, one of the most common activities is to generate user personas to provide the User Experience (UX) team with an overview of the kinds of people who are likely to visit your site. These personas are made up of information about the person (their job, their age range, their interests) and guidance on what they are looking for from the site. The personas are powerful pieces of information and are an excellent starting point in developing your website.

During the initial discovery phase it is likely that the personas will be refined iteratively until you have a set of personas that describe your customer/visitor base. The wrong thing to do here is to file these personas away and forget about them after the UX team are finished. The personas should be a living, breathing part of the specification that are constantly referred to throughout the delivery and subsequent launch of the website.

Many customer experience management (CXM)/online marketing systems give you the ability to add personas into the system so they can become part of your analysis and improvement cycle. I’m going to focus on Kentico EMS and talk through two simple ways in which you can make use of Personas to challenge your own assumptions and continually improve the site for your visitors.

Welcome to the family

Your personas are borne from research, a heady mixture of customer research (often focus groups and questionnaires), analytics and existing research. They are a great indication of your customer and visitor base but it is important to remember that they are predominately derived from a subset of your actual customer/visitor base. To take everyone into account would be enough to reduce the sternest UX designer to a quivering shadow of their former selves.

It is for this very reason that you need to continually revisit the personas after launch to ensure that you are delivering the best possible experience for the largest percentage of your audience.

The personas can be recreated within Kentico, complete with snappy profile and perfectly-posed photo. All of the information gathered on their website habits and interests can be channelled into rules and conditions which dictate how a visitor to the site can be added to the persona.

With the personas in place, the analysis can begin...

There’s lots of things you could track or measure but the big two are:

  • Are people being added to your persona?
  • Is there a significant group of people not being added to your personas?

Both of these points can illustrate issues or areas for improvement with your initial assumptions and can help you understand how your site is being used. Each site visitor can only belong to one persona at a time so you can very quickly identify the challenges and take corrective action, e.g. by introducing a new persona, tweaking templates or calls to action, etc.

Turn left in 800 yards...

The user personas are often accompanied by the user journey, an outline of the typical paths that your personas are likely to take through the website. Alongside the personas, these user journeys are a key piece of information for the UX and creative teams as they step into their secret laboratories to formulate just the right design.

Like with personas, these user journeys should not be filed away and forgotten. The likelihood is that you have made assumptions and/or educated guesses based on the research you had to hand. You need to get these out into the real world and measure the success of your thought process.

Using the campaigns and conversions features within Kentico, you can model user journeys for each persona within the website and then track users linked to each persona against these user journeys. You can then measure whether users are following the journeys you expected and, if not, delve further into the analytics provided by Kentico to understand what they are actually doing and customise accordingly.

I've started so I'll finish...

As is always the case, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You often capture lots of information during those early stages of a project and then through subsequent user testing. It’s vital that you funnel that information into your project so you can continually deliver the best possible experience for your visitors.

Rich Madigan is a Project Manager and Kentico Consultant here at MMT Digital. When not managing his own projects and pioneering Kentico standards alongside our own Kentico MVP Ilesh Mistry, he can often be found working on the best strategies for the implementation of the Kentico EMS.