• User-Centred Design

15th Jun 2012

4 min


It seems that using personas becoming a more and more popular in design, marketing and even business strategy, but are they worth the effort? Aren’t they a bit fluffy? Can they really provide great value? Ultimately, how will they help you improve conversion and bottom line?

At PRWD we spend a significant amount of our time going direct to the user and wading in with them in their online experiences and behavior to allow our clients to make well-informed decisions. Sometimes even we are surprised by the amount we can learn, but what do we do with the information next? Sometimes simply writing a detailed 200-page report is the best option and we’re not recommending dispensing with the rationale behind recommendations, in fact we’d champion that approach.

What we are doing with more and more of our retail and B2B is using the wide range of consumer insights we are able to capture, in particular from 1-1 sessions with users matching their target audience, to deliver detailed and actionable personas.

What’s so good about Personas?

In their excellent book on personas, “The User is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web,” Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar present 5 key reasons for using personas.

1. Focus

You can’t build a website for everyone. Serving a specific audience really well is often better than serving a larger audience less well. Developing personas will help you to identify which users are critical to your business.

2. Empathy

You are not your users. You are not your users. I cannot repeat this enough. Your users do not necessarily care about the things that you do and so you really need to do your research. Personas used correctly will act as a reminder of these differences.

3. Consensus

By developing personas collaboratively early on, you are able to address issues before they become a source of tension later on. Personas can make reduce the political nature of working in teams.

4. Efficiency

Making effective decisions upfront can provide answers to questions that might be costly to address at a later stage in the process if you are forced to change direction.

5. Decisions

Good personas should be grounded in research meaning that you will being making evidence based decisions. It’s obviously not completely foolproof, but it’s about as close as you’ll get. Personas can also provide a platform from which to achieve buy-in from key stakeholders.

When should I develop Personas?

In our experience, it’s best to work on personas as early as possible. This is because they can be helpful at virtually every stage of a project. As an example, we have recently completed a detailed customer insights project for a high quality conference centre, in which we developed personas for them before they even appointed an agency for their website redesign.

In fact they found that having website personas and a usability and persuasion blueprint for the new website in place early on has helped them in the process of selecting agencies that have demonstrated that they are able to match their vision for an outstanding user experience.

But don’t worry; you don’t need to be embarking on a major re-design project to get value from personas. As you know, managing websites throws up new challenges on a regular basis and personas can allow you to respond with your key users in mind.

Hopefully I’ve managed to convince you of the value that personas can bring if done right, if not or you’ve got any additions, let us know in the comments.

If you’re tempted by a set of research based online personas prepared by experts for your business feel free to get in touch on 0161 228 0585 or email enquiries@prwd.co.uk.