So now you know all about the power of user experience and why it matters. (Quick refresher: poor UX ≠ success). But when you start thinking about UX and your company, who are those users? What do they need? What motivates them? Do they even use (or understand) social media? Heck, what are they doing in their free time?
This process of defining the "user" in user experience is called building a user persona. In the most plain (and boring) terms possible, the dictionary defines a user persona as “a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.”
Basically, a user persona is your target customer, the supreme user, one user to rule them all, the master of all users (we can keep going, but we’ll spare you). This persona is an archetype of generalized traits that helps you understand why your customers might love some of what you offer and barely pay attention to others. So, when you try to put yourself in your users’ shoes, you actually know if you're putting on sensible heels or scuffed Chuck Taylors.
Ready to start building your own user personas? Let’s start with the basics.
- A/S/L?: What are the basic demographics of your core customer? We know you likely have more than one customer base, but pick one type and start there. Start building a rough sketch of your typical customer, maybe even one who has entered your store or purchased something from you in the past. Is this customer a 40-year-old mother of two who lives in the suburbs and commutes to the city for work? Are they an urban East Coast Millennial who works from home or the local coffee shop? Stick to the basics of age, income range, marital status, children, and location.
- It’s all about the data: So you may think you know all of the above answers off the top of your head (and maybe you do, you data-driven marketer, you) but make sure you’re basing your profile off of as much research as you have available. Dig into your website analytics, your social media analytics, your competition, your customer discovery research, and make sure you have the most complete (and factual) image of your target user as you can.
Now let’s add some personality.
- Tell me a story: Think about the last time you went on a first date. Simply sharing your age, gender, and current location isn't enough for the person sitting across the table to get to know you. (And if you were on a date and just said, "32, female, DC" and stopped, we're guessing the date didn't go so well.) Let's make this user persona a more complete person by attempting to answer the following questions:
- What are their skills? Are they website savvy or can they barely turn on their computers? Is their iPhone basically a fifth limb? Do they use Facebook to connect with businesses or are they more a Pinterest person? Dig deep into what their technology, software, and social preferences are to start painting a picture how you can connect with them through your digital marketing.
- What do they need or want? The stressed single mom of 2 needs affordable and flexible daycare so that she can go to work. (Care.com tries to solve that problem.) The moustachioed Millennial wants to easily order curated succulents. (This exists and we kinda want it.) Think about what your target customer needs in order to survive, and what they wish they could have but would survive without. Your offering falls in either of those two categories.
- What are their values and attitudes? Empathy is key to get into your customer's mindset. Think about what they value most, and how they feel. Are they optimistic and actively working to change the world for the better? Are they diehard introverts who prefer to order things via app than talk to people? What motivates their choices and behavior? A recent start-up launch that quickly turned into a disaster illustrated why this is SO important.
- What’s a typical day? Write a story about what happens between when your customer wake up and when she goes to sleep. You may be surprised about what it might reveal about how your customers interact with the world around them.
- Bonus round: Make that persona real. You might feel silly, but give them a name and a stock image; big marketing companies do this all the time. You’ll be throwing around the names Supermom Sally or Handlebar Harry before you know it, and hopefully you care about them, too.
Put it all into a fancy little template and you've got yourself a persona.
Before you decide that it's too much work to do this, think about all the things you'll be able to do once you've got Supermom Sally's persona created. You'll be able to design a Facebook ad campaign specifically to reach her with the solution to her problem. You'll be able to modify your service offerings based on how she structures her day, and deliver your ad campaign at lunchtime when she's scrolling through her Newsfeed over her sandwich. You can tweak your language to appeal to both her need for affordability and how your service can help her keep her career on track. It is invaluable to be able to see your company and what you offer not only through your eyes, but through your customers’ eyes.
The bottom line: The more your company serves its users, the more successful your company will be. Take that to the bank!