Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts about the Nonprofit Web Design Process. See the end of this post for a linked index of other posts in the series.
A persona is a fictional representation of one of your constituents. When they’re based on solid user research, personas can be great tools for helping your design team and internal stakeholders truly understand your audiences.
Purposes for personas include:
- Help synthesize and articulate what we learn about constituents through user research
- Build consensus around target audiences
- Encourage empathy for constituents when making design and/or content decisions for your website
When we create personas for a nonprofit, we try to limit the number to 5 or 6. Each persona should be representative of one audience group for your organization. Even though personas have different demographic descriptions, the key factor that differentiates one persona from the next is what the person needs from your organization. So, if you have a 65-year-old male and a 26-year-old female that are both looking for ways to volunteer with your organization, you only have one persona: a volunteer.
For each persona, I typically include:
- Character description
- Technology profile
- Definition of needs
- Scenario describing how they might use the site/tool/etc.
Also, going back to the research, each descriptor I use would ideally be based on something I learned during the user research phase – an interview response, analytics data, survey data or something else that’s real and tangible.
I deliver personas either as Word Documents or PowerPoint slides. There are typically a couple of rounds of revisions before we arrive at a final product. Here are some personas I recently developed with a client:
The final step in the persona development process is to socialize the personas around your organization. Printing them out and laminating them is a good start. A colleague recently shared this blog post from MailChimp with me that showed some amazing posters they designed to show off their personas. Whatever method you use, be sure that folks get excited about them. These personas will be your friends as you write and revise content, plan your email campaigns and optimize your website.
Next month, we’ll move on from User Research into Content Strategy. I like to think of Content Strategy is “where the rubber meets the road” in our design process since we get to take everything we learned during Discovery and User Research and start making actionable recommendations. Get excited!