How To Create User Personas for Your Website

Developing user personas for your website will help you design a website that resonates with visitors, motivates content sharing, and converts more e-mail subscribers, donors and volunteers.
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Developing user personas for your website will help you design a website that resonates with visitors, motivates content sharing, and converts more e-mail subscribers, donors and volunteers.

Personas will also help you optimize your website for search because you have a better understanding of the keywords they'll usein search engines.

What are Personas?

User personas are essentially fictitious characters that represent the various different types of people that visit your website.

Personas enable you to experience your website through the eyes of another person, which will somewhat neutralize your subjectivity.

And like characters in a movie, personas will be archetypes.

Here are three examples of personas:

Andy Activist - Andy is in his early 30s and single. He has no children so spends a lot of time with friends who share the same interests. Andy's a software engineer with some disposable income. He's not rich, and believes that money corrupts. He also believes in the power of collective activism.

He spends a lot of time volunteering for political organizations, developing campaign websites, managing social media, and participating in occupy-style demonstrations along with his friends. And he is very wary of "being sold" when he visits websites. He's very passionate, but he's very smart.


Jerry Joiner -- Jerry is in his 40s. He's never been married, has no kids, and is kind of a loner. He shares many of the same values that Andy has, but rarely gets past signing a petition or making small donations to causes he believes in.

Jerry wants to be part of something bigger than himself, but he's a little skittish and shy. He needs to feel heard and understood before he'll make substantial commitments. He's been hesitant about committing to anything after his divorce and losing a job.


Sally Singlemom -- Sally is a single mom who is 35. For work she manages a customer support team at a healthcare company, and has almost no social life. At work and in her personal life, Sally exhibits a high level of integrity and passion.

She believes that it's her mission to create a better world for her children, and that creating that world exists in each and every interaction she has. Sally has tremendous leadership capability, but very little time for anything other than her job and her children.


How to create user personas

Following are eight steps you can follow to create a set of user personas for your website:

1. Define Your Segments
Start with a list of the various different segments that you deal with. Donors, volunteers, activists, cultists, email subscribers, inactive members, talkative Facebook fans.

2. Define Demographics
Demographics are not personas. It's very difficult to create content that resonates when all you know is their gender and age.

Still, you have to start somewhere and demographics is a perfectly fine place to start.
  • Where do they live?
  • What gender are they?
  • What level of education have they achieved?
  • What is their income?
  • What is their marital status?
  • Do they have kids?

3. Articulate Their Values and Beliefs
Next, you'll want to know what their values, opinions, and beliefs are.

Knowing this information will give you a handle on what will be going on in their heads when they visit your website.
  • What are their passions and interests?
  • What are their dreams and goals?
  • Are they politically conservative or liberal?
  • What are their personality characteristics?
  • What motivates them to share information with others?
What's great about social media is that you can
. This gets much easier if you use a service like SmallAct or have social CRM features built into your donor database.

4. Get Under Their Skin
Next, you want to articulate what deeply motivates them on an emotional level. This sounds hard, but once you have demographic and psychographic information, getting under their skin will come natural because guess what! You're a human being too!

Start by asking some of these questions:
  • What's their self-image?
  • What are their day-to-day worries and goals?
  • How are they trying to create a meaningful life?
  • What behaviors are they trying to change?

5. Define The Value They Get From Your Organization
Knowing what their beliefs are and what moves them emotionally will enable you to articulate exactly why they would donate to you or volunteer. You'll start to understand the real emotional reasons around why they donate or volunteer.

6. Give Them a Face and a Name
Get a picture from a site like Fotolia or Shutterstock. Give them a name that includes an adjective that describes their personality (as in the examples above.

7. Share Your Personas
You'll want to share your personas with anyone who has direct contact with your constituents. Ask them who specifically each persona reminds them of and why. Their feedback will confirm that your personas actually reflect the real world.

8. Refine Your Persona

Using Your Personas To Design Your Website.

Once you've developed your personas, discuss how each persona would behave on your website. Ask questions like:
  • What would create trust in this person?
  • What are the top pages they'd view?
  • What call-to-actions are they most likely to complete?
  • What psychological hurdles would those pages unknowingly present?
  • What keywords would they use in google?
  • Why would they share our content?

The process of discussing how these personas will feel, think and behave will give you information that you'd never be able to get if you used only your subjectivity to design your site. And that's the real value of personas!

Have you created user personas for your website?

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