Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video Develop fact-based personas, part of UX Foundations: Content Strategy.
- Although it would be great to have full and constant access to your target audience throughout the project, this is neither practical nor realistic. To provide points of reference for the different types of people in the target audience and keep them front and mind throughout the project, we develop what's known as personas. These are archetypal descriptions of people, complete with names and attributes, that encompass the common attributes and qualities of different groups within the target audience. Traditionally, personas have been developed to represent people in an ideal context and state for accessing the content.
But in the past few years, a more nuanced approach has been established where persona spectrums are developed to represent the same person in different contexts and situations. This is done to ensure the personas more accurately reflect real people and their real lives and real challenges and real changing environments. When making a persona, it's vital to base it on real data from real people. While it's easy to come up with an imagined version of your target audience, it's only through interaction with the actual people in this group that you'll learn who they are and what matters to them.
One way to gather this data and build fact-based personas is through interviews and surveys. Start by mapping out what information about the target audience you believe is relevant to the project. This could be anything from age and gender to what kind of connected device they use, where they live, how often they brush their teeth, or whether they prefer penguins or cats. It all depends on your organization and the product or service you're offering. Turn these pieces of information into questions that will produce accurate and useful data.
To build out your persona spectrums, make sure to include questions that relate to different contexts relevant to your subject matter and allow the respondents to provide different answers, depending on these contexts. When you've collected data from enough respondents that you feel like you have a representative sample, collate that data into three or more personas. I recommend creating one ideal persona and two that represent opposite ends of an extreme. As an example, for a website selling advanced photo equipment, the ideal persona would be a professional photographer or a photography student and on either extreme, you'll find someone looking to buy something for a family member with an interest in photography and someone with significant disposable income who wants to take great vacation photos.
For each of these three personas, develop one or more spectrums, based on relevant contexts. In my examples, these contexts could be time or lack thereof, immediate access to funds, or something as basic as their ability to navigate the site and find what they're looking for in a distracted environment. To make these personas as real as possible, liven them up by giving them names, a photo, and other vital statistics. It can also be useful to assign each of the personas to a team member and conduct role playing exercises where these team members have to answer questions or perform actions, based on what they know about the persona.
Now, fair warning, this is in no way a replacement for actual user testing with actual people. But it can provide better insight into the persona and also what data is missing and needs to be added to make the persona complete. Once the personas are finished, create shareable, one-paged versions of them to pin up on walls and include in documents, and refer to them throughout the project with questions like, would this solution make sense to Mike? Are we meeting Anna's expectations here? Is this giving Maiken enough information to make an informed decision?
Learn the four elements of constructing meaningful content, from identifying your audience and structuring and wireframing content to developing content guidelines and measuring the success of your efforts. Author Morten Rand-Hendriksen also shows you how to develop persona spectrums to better understand your users and evaluate the needs of important stakeholders and influencers.
- What is content?
- The components of content strategy
- Identifying stakeholders and audience
- Developing user persona spectrums
- Auditing your content
- Building guides, templates, and workflows
- Creating the content
- Measuring success