Persona Best Practices

Personas are an insightful deliverable to help create better user experiences. They can be approached a number of ways depending on your end goals—whether you're redefining your brand voice, informing your product development or providing guidance for your information architecture.

We take a pragmatic approach at Chapter Three with Personas, using them to guide our information architecture decisions. We capture the user tasks, then prioritize these to reflect the business focus. Prioritization ensures our designs support key user journeys, which in turn set up businesses to succeed.

Usability best practices - personas

Persona Fields

For each Persona type, we define the:
  • Type of user
  • Name
  • Age
  • Location
  • How often and on what device?
  • Goals & tactics for the site
  • General notes

We typically define 4–7 Personas per site, segmenting by unique goals and tasks.

For example, on a university department website, the Personas would be:

  • Prospective students
  • Existing students
  • Parents
  • Faculty & staff
  • Alumni

While there may be some overlap in tasks within these Personas, each has a unique primary user journey.

Prioritize the Personas

After we’ve defined the Personas, we prioritize them.

To prioritize, we use a pie chart. We collaborate with our clients to assign a percentage to each Persona until the total equals 100%. The percentages reflect the business focus of the website (who the site needs to serve most for the organization to succeed). Here is what a pie chart may look like for our university department site:

  • Prospective students 55%
  • Existing students 20%
  • Parents 15%
  • Faculty & staff 6%
  • Alumni 4%
Personas Best Practices
 

How to define the right percentages

The percentages in the pie chart don’t necessarily equate to site traffic. They should reflect the business goals. For example, if you have a product website and your goal is to attract a Venture Capitalist Funder, this person may only represent 1% of your site traffic, but she may be your #1 Persona. In other words, you need the site to appeal to her if you want funding. 

When facilitating this exercise, I guide my clients to voice their best guess at percentages, without worrying about them adding up to 100%.  After an inital pass at the numbers, we refine them to represent the correct hierarchy. I've seen this exercise align clients within their internal teams, clarifying misconceptions about who the site needs to serve. 

The Takeaway

Crafting personas hierarchically clarifies who the site needs to work for. This helps them align both the client and the agency on where the focus needs to be. It produces more effective content strategy, information architecture and user experiences.  If you like this idea, try it on your next project. Share your experience or ideas for improvement below.