Chris Owen

Written by Chris Owen

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Why your business needs a user persona

If you know how to define the demographic that are best suited to your product or service then hats off, let's all put the kettle on and crack open the Hobnobs.

Ok, so if you're not entirely sure who your most desirable audience is, especially in today's, often, over-saturated online market, then it's about time you 'fessed up and started to look a little more closely into the wonderful world of user personas.

What the heck is a user persona?

According to HubSpot: “A user persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

So, there you go.

But what's the relationship between user personas and quality UX?

Basically, a customer's personal identity dictates what they're going to be interested in buying or using online. Ethics, personal preferences, likes and dislikes, will all figure in the thought process behind purchasing, often ascertained within a moment's click or swipe.

That's the reason why understanding how, and why, your clients think the way they do is essential for giving them exactly what they're looking for as a tie into their personal values and perceived identity.

Cutting out the stress related to UX is just as important as providing an experience that makes a customer feel happy and satisfied in order to keep them coming back for more of the same, and perhaps sharing their experience as part of the process.

That's why understanding UX through identifying user personas allows you to marry up your company's vision and business strategy with pretty much the same values as your customers.

What additional advantages are there to detailing user personas?

What, aside from tangible CTA's and increasing your bottom line?

Knowing who is interested in your services and products means that you get to tweak your online content and marketing to appeal even more directly to more niche customer groups. More benefits are listed below:

Cut out the waste – rather than marketing strategies that appeal to the masses you can really focus on the mix that's going to directly target who you're interested in. Like line and pole fishing rather than deep-sea trawling – more on this later.

Further enforce your identity – communicating what your core values are is essential both inside and outside of your company. Your team will perform better if they have a collective understanding of who you are and what you're setting out to achieve as a group. This will immediately impact on your audience as your team will know how to make customers happy and keep them coming back for more of the good stuff.

Where your product sits with your audience – forming a crystal clear message of who you are and what you're offering allows your audience to instantly understand whether you're for them or not.

Further developing your product/service – learning more about user personas allows you to navigate potential problems in advance as well as allowing opportunities, that you may have never seen, to come to the fore.

Face worries head on – voicing opinions and objections to a particular project should be part and parcel of a healthy business. Understanding the importance of user personas and building them into a UX strategy will lessen the impact of negativity and disharmony allowing you to overcome issues with more authority.

In a nutshell: knowing all there is to know about your audience is one of the best ways to ensure you get a much more effective return on what you've already invested.

So how do I go about creating a user persona for my key customers?

Name your users. Humanise them. Give them an age, gender and educational background. Assign them a job or role and list what they like and dislike alongside what they see as a challenge or fear the most.

By creating a human persona for your users, you'll be able to target them more clearly and create a spark of interest that could well grow into a full on flame of desire. For now, we'll just look at the basics for creating user personas with the following tools and content highlighting optional extras on how to get started:

A free persona template – from HubSpot

A guide to creating personas – courtesy of UX Booth

How to marry real data with user personas – according to ConversionXL

Give yourself some time to go through the process step by step, it's an experience in itself, as this is a great way to discover exactly what you know about your customers, your key audience, which will prove one of the most invaluable tools you'll ever possess. It may seem like a time consuming and, perhaps, a bit of a waste of energy, however, the results are tangible and well worth the end result.

The user persona that I've created for my UX company is below. I think this person best suits my services and therefore is more likely to buy into my vision and use my products. That's the bottom line.

P.S. Although it looks like I'm being slightly ageist and sexist, for better or for worse, that's who my audience is. Owners of new technology companies are predominantly male and although I'd love to be able to attract more women (ahem), it's just a fact of life that the best returns for my product and services are going to come from blokes.

The user persona that I've chosen for my business:

  • A 30 to 40 year old male.
  • He's the creator and/or director of a quickly developing SaaS, ecommerce or web application that's making good profits but doesn't, at the moment, employ anyone, in-house or otherwise, to do his UX.
  • He understands his company's UX could improve and is being proactive about doing something about it.
  • His career to date has been on an upward curve but he's determined to keep improving under his own steam.
  • He values his team and enjoys his job although does feel like he's stretched a bit too thinly at times.
  • He wants to be able to do some good in the world as well as making a profit and is also looking to end his career while he's still able to enjoy his life away from work i.e. retire early
  • His earnings come in between £40 – 80 grand and overall he's worth between £600 - £2mill, although with mortgage debts and car repayment loans etc.
  • He's responsible for making business decisions where what he buys is through need as opposed to his home life where whatever is purchased stems from desire.
  • He's a healthy bloke who likes yoga, fast-paced outdoor activities and travelling abroad for work and pleasure.
  • He pays absolute attention to detail and during the working week he has to be connected to his business from the moment he wakes up.
  • Weekends are for family, cultural visits, eating out at restaurants and catching up on books and magazines.
  • Ideally he'd like a few more days to spend with his family during the week and at weekends.
  • He desires a minimalist approach to work which creates less waste and more productivity within a relaxed, focused and inclusive atmosphere.
  • He understands the importance of new technology and spends quality time using Twitter and other business-related social media sites, such as Linkedin.
  • He's not afraid to take educated chances that push perimeters; in effect he's a glass half full kind of chap.
  • He can take feedback and analysis from outsiders and is moved to further create from the strength of his previous work and achievements.
  • He sees 'making a difference' as essential to his life's work and would feel deflated if he wasn't able to achieve this outcome whilst also assisting and aiding people at the same time.
  • He's not afraid to start new projects and learn under his own steam in order to meet his own high standards.
  • Paying for products and services online is not something that phases him and he'd rather chat and talk to clients, co-workers and other business leaders over a conference call or Slack dashboard.
  • What I'm able to offer him in terms of a tailored, personal service would improve his UX and increase his bottom line as well as increasing his team's focus on performance and alleviating some of the stress related to accomplishing his overall vision.

By listing the fears and dreams of the user persona that I've created above I discovered that my target audience is, in fact, going to be an audience who might be quite tricky to communicate to.

They're intelligent, educated (self or academically) and therefore the content that I apply to my blog, my website and via my social media outlets has to create a response that's pretty much immediately perceived as positive in order to attract and hold attention.

With this in mind: I'm now faced with a series of new issues to consider in order to move forward as a business as I search for my optimum audience.

So, how will creating a user persona benefit my business?

What the...! Haven't you been listening? Sometimes I wonder...

Come on! How can creating a user persona not help your business?

Seriously, it doesn't take long and once you've thought about your own user persona then you'll quickly find that you and your team will gain a much clearer and more focused vision of how your audience perceive your business and what they think of the whole experience surrounding the purchasing of your product or service.

In summary: trawling the bottom of the ocean for one type of fish creates waste, destruction and a heck of a headache for many more years to come so do yourself, and your business, a favour and get out the old pole and line when it comes to attracting a fish that you definitely won't want to throw back.

More metaphors on fishing, as well as another article on user personas can be found on Forbes.com.

Ok, so the massive question in all this is: BUT HOW DO I CHOOSE WHAT MY FISH, I mean, TARGET AUDIENCE SHOULD BE?

Take your time to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Which of my current clients are my most valued? And why?
  2. Which demographics in my industry's field are the most dynamic with the fastest-growing and brightest futures?
  3. Where can I find an area that doesn't have too much competition?
  4. Which section of my audience can be reached without too much trouble and who are the easiest to work with and market my products and services to?

Fishing for just one type of product rather than a sweeping all-consuming trawl can seem a bit unnerving at first, like you're missing out on lots of other potential clients. However, be brave, be bold and reap the rewards of a focussed niche UX campaign. Don't kid yourself that you can offer all people what they want because you simply can't. Just look at Brexit. No don't. Please don't.

Start as you mean to go on by creating a user persona so you can begin to understand and get to know your key audience straight away. The more you get a handle on who you're aiming for then the more you, your co-workers and your business brand can hit the sweet spot and start to wow with reinforced confidence.