The Elements of a Perfect User Persona

Trying to figure out who your business' target audience is online can be a difficult process. Talking directly to your users can be time consuming, frustrating and even misleading at times. So how do you make sure that your website is optimized for your target audience? One great option is to create a user persona - a hypothetical user who is based on data collected from your target audience. However, in order for a user persona to pay dividends for your business it needs to be created in a way that is true to your target audience and effective enough that your persona helps drive your website design process instead of just becoming an afterthought. For this to happen, user personas need to have the eight following characteristics thoughtfully planned out:


Good user personas should be given a name

While this might seem unnecessary, giving a user persona a name is actually an extremely important part of creating a useful persona. Making your persona as close to resembling a real person in your target audience as possible is ultimately the goal, and every real person has a name. Assigning a user persona a name will make it easier to refer to your persona instead of having to refer to it as a broad idea.


Once again, this might seem unnecessary, but giving a user persona a picture is actually a key part of constructing an effective persona. By assigning a picture of a real person that no one on your team knows, it helps to humanize your persona. It allows your team to think about the persona as if it is a real person and makes the persona more approachable as something that your website can be created around. Furthermore, it allows you to think deeper and harder about what your target audience looks like and as a result it might fuel more ideas about how a website should be designed with the user's needs in mind.


While a persona is ultimately most helpful for understanding how a target audience will navigate, including a background for your persona will help you understand what the motivations might be for how your audience is navigating. For example, you might realize that your target audience is comprised largely of single mothers in their late 30s who aren't able to spend too much time on the internet. Understanding facts like this will also allow you to try and tailor some of your content to appeal to your target audience's background and upbringing.


Understanding your audience's online skill set is an important part of a user persona

Understanding the "skills" of your persona is important for two reasons. The first is understanding how technically skilled your persona is - Are they well-acquainted with the internet and know how to get around it quickly and efficiently? Answering this question will allow you to help build your brand in a way that will make it easy for your users to quickly and easily find the content you want them to get to by creating your website in a way that allows them to navigate with ease based on their technical level. The second part of building a user persona with well thought out skills is understanding what your target audience knows about your product before they come to your website. How much marketing is your business doing and is the average customer going to be knowledgeable about your brand before they make it to your website? Having a persona that shows that users aren't well informed about your brand when they enter your site will help you better understand how much information you should provide about your company, what you do and why they should do business with you.


This can be an easy one to overlook, but making sure that your user persona has an age that represents your target user is important in understanding how you are going to design your website. If your persona dictates a lower average age it can mean that your site might benefit from a more modern updated theme. If older, it might make more sense to design your website with simplicity instead of style. Outside of overall website design, having a user persona that has an age will allow you to better target your digital marketing efforts and create more effective and tailored copy.


Understanding the educational level of your target audience by including it in a user persona is absolutely essential for a couple of reasons. Having this included in a persona will help dictate what kind of word choice your copy will have. This is particularly important when it comes to navigation button copy - if your persona would probably have a difficult time understanding what a certain navigational button, or even worse, call-to-action, means, then your website is going to have a lot of trouble getting users to navigate where you want them to go.


[caption id="attachment_15735" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Persona Geography [Image courtesy of jscreationzs /][/caption]

Knowing where your user persona is from is extremely important so that you can make sure that the majority of your audience has no cultural or geographical problems with your content. This means making sure that all the features of your website are available if your audience is connecting to it from somewhere other than where your business is located. For ecommerce, this also means making sure that the majority of users that get to your site are able to actually purchase and have your products shipped to them. Including this detail in a user persona will guarantee that not only will you know where most users are geographically located, but that the majority of your users will have no problem interacting with your site because of where they are from.


User Personas can help you understand what platform your audience is using

An important part of generating a good user persona is understanding which platforms they are using to get to your website. For example, if you have one persona who is only using Mac products and spends a lot of time on their iOS device, it would make sense to make sure that your website has a responsive design for mobile devices and renders correctly and quickly for users who are connecting to your site through Mac products. Including this detail in a persona will help you to create a user experience that is optimized for the devices that your target audience will be on when they come to your website so that they don't navigate away because your website is optimized for the incorrect platform. By planning out these eight characteristics for a user persona and then properly applying the knowledge it gives you about your audience to how your business is designed, marketed and developed online, your business is guaranteed to create an online presence that is properly optimized for your target audience. Have any more tips for creating fantastic user personas? Share them below in the comments section or reach out to us on twitter @BFMweb.