Using Personas In Web Design: A How-To

What Does “Persona” Mean in Digital Marketing

Persona is just a fancy way of saying you understand the various profiles of your customer base. Depending on the nature of your business, you may only have one (very niche products or services), or you might have a variety of them.

Persona Examples and How to Start Writing Them 

If you sell beauty products, you may have a product line for anti-aging and a product line for acne control. The customers you’re selling these products to, and clearly their goals in their product purchases are very different. So understanding the difference between them is essential in your ability to write content, select images, and create compelling calls to action that encourage them to make a purchase. 

You can take a couple of different approaches to determine how many personas you need. Crafting out a specific individual profile for each product or service line would work best based on the example above. 

As an alternative strategy, if you have offerings that would apply to multiple personas but in different scenarios, and would require different sales pitches, you’ll want to write personas based on a user demographic. 

For example, say you’re a credit union and you need to target users more specifically by age and the stage of life they’re in. Your banking and loan services might be applicable to everyone, but how you talk to a 25-year-old about them will not be the same as you would talk to a 55-year-old. Each age group has very different goals based on being in different stages of life, so how you communicate with them must reflect that.

Are personas missing from your marketing strategy? Find out what else might be missing with our Digital Marketing Checklist.

Persona Templates – No Need to Start from Scratch

There is no shortage of persona templates available on the web for you to get inspiration from. 

They do NOT need to look this stylish. You can just as well open up a word doc and start compiling one in bullet points. Things that look pretty are nice, but unless you’re a marketing company crafting these for clients, this level of visualization and design is not necessary.

So pull one from the web, or start your own on a cocktail napkin, we aren’t picky. What matters is the research and thought that goes into crafting them. The detail in which you can craft a full understanding of those persona’s goals, concerns, and specific user journey. 

Items you’ll want to consider including in your persona profiles:

  • Basic demographics 
    • Age, income ranges, marital/family status 
  • What are their goals when looking for your product/service?
    • What are their pain points? What problems are they trying to solve with the purchase?
  • What are their common objectives?
  • Frequently asked questions  
    • What’s most important to them when making this purchase decision? 
    • How will they feel about your price? Are you the value option, or the high-end?
    • Brand Awareness – Have they already heard of your brand? What kind of feelings are they most likely to have with your brand already? 
    • How effective is what you have to offer at meeting that personas needs?
    • Do your company values align with those of the persona? People are voting with their dollars, choosing to spend with companies whose values reflect their own

What needs to go in your user personas will vary depending on your business. Keep what feels relevant, and definitely add to this list as you see holes that pertain to your ability to market to a specific persona successfully. 

Craft Specific Stories for Each Persona

You have the general outline for who your personas are. Great! But they still feel like a cold list of data and assumptions. 

You need to turn this list of information into a real human story. Give your persona a name and write a story that helps provide more context to your writers and designers about who this person is by placing them in the real world, in a scenario that lines up with them needing what you have to offer. These hypotheticals don’t need to be very long—we don’t need their whole life story! We just need a snapshot of who and where they are in life now—a paragraph ought to do it. 

Wait, How Do I Use These Personas in My Website Design? 

Every decision you make—from the way it looks, what you write, how you say it, and the functionality of the site—should be informed by your user personas. Some pages and items will need to cater to all of them, like your homepage. It’s where the vast majority of new website users land first, so you want to make sure that it’s accessible to all personas, and that it has clear paths for different personas to navigate through the site from there. 

Two of the most prominent areas where your personas will come into play when building a new website and everything that goes into it, is in 1) writing the copy and 2) selecting images. 

How User Personas Effect What You Write

Before you (or ideally a copywriter) starts writing website copy, you should already have a clear understanding of what your company’s voice is. That’s your baseline, and then a user persona provides a layer on top of that. Don’t suddenly start dropping slang in your writing just because your persona is a 20-year-old if that’s not a normal part of your company voice. 

First, ask yourself if it meets the company’s tone guidelines, then ask yourself if that’s the right way to talk to that persona. 

People like to see Themselves – Using Personas for Image Selection

We can’t help it, we all gravitate to things that remind us of ourselves, it’s human nature. Use that to your advantage by selecting images that are reflective of your personas. 

Don’t put images of a fresh-faced 16-year-old on your page for your anti-aging skincare line. 

Don’t choose pictures of a 60-year-old buying a McMansion on your home loan page, which is geared towards first-time homebuyers in their 30’s. 

Show people how purchasing your product, or using your service, can improve their own life, in whatever stage they’re at. 

America is a melting pot and your image selection needs to reflect that. Try to use a variety of ethnicities, cultures, races, and genders in your imagery, there certainly is a line between showing a diverse population and taking this too far to a point that may come off as offensive, you need to be thoughtful. 

Taking Personas for Design One Step Further: Content Gateways

If you are specifically targeting a persona because you want to increase your business coming from that customer group, you might need to build a Content Gateway. This is a specific user flow with pages geared only towards that persona. They aren’t included in your normal site navigation. For example, our gateway for nonprofit organizations

By selecting long-tail keywords specific to that persona that indicate purchase intent (ex: “best anti-aging cream buy online” or “apply for home mortgage”) you’ll be able to rank these gateway pages higher in Google’s search results and place that persona directly on a page made just for them. These will serve a smaller number of your overall user population, but their personalized nature should increase the conversion rate for that persona.

But I Can’t Be Persona Specific – We’re Trying to Sell to Everyone

The trick with trying to be everything to everyone is that you end up being so generic you don’t mean anything or speak convincingly to anyone. There is a way to meet the needs of multiple personas on your site. We’ll help you sort it out! 

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