Web design isn’t just about making stunning websites—it’s more about making them functional as per the needs of your target audience.
42% of respondents from a survey reported they’d leave a website because of poor functionality. They’re more concerned about the ease of navigation and user experience. For that, you need to get insights about your ideal audience and understand the design elements that are more useful and relevant for them.
User personas are excellent for knowing your audience’s needs and interests and ensuring you’re building something users will love. They help you understand how people interact with your website, so you can make informed design decisions and focus on what matters most.
What is a user persona?
A user persona is a fictional character representing a specific user type. It helps you define your users’ needs and how best to serve them by using their values, goals, and motivations as guidelines for your design decisions.
You describe a character’s traits, professional setting, day-to-day routine, behavior pattern, goals, skills, attitude, problems, and more in great detail in a persona.
You’ll find plenty of resources, templates, and guides about creating in-depth user personas. This guide to building personas for UX will help you understand what an ideal persona looks like and how they can benefit your web design process.
How user personas are used in the web design process
User personas can be used in two ways:
- To help create personas for each website area or feature. This is an excellent way to build consensus among stakeholders about what it means for them to use this feature.
- To understand why certain people behave differently than others when using your website and how they might behave differently again if you were designing for them.
Following are five best practices for incorporating user personas in web design.
1. Avoid making assumptions about potential visitors
When designing a site, it’s easy to make assumptions about who will use it and how they will use it.
For example, you might assume that your users are all men or women. But it all depends on who you’re catering to and what gender your website and business appeal to. However, just to be cautious, consider making your site more gender-neutral (i.e., not just “men” or “women”) unless you’re very sure about the target gender.
Depending on your target audience, create different user personas for different genders, personalities, roles, etc., to understand who is likely to visit your website.
Define your target audience
The first step in creating user personas is determining who will use your site or app and why they use it. More importantly, understand your target personas’ motivation, mindset, and behavior.
This can be done by asking questions like:
- What do I want them to accomplish with my website?
- How do I know if it’s working for them or not?
- How do you want this persona to feel when interacting with your brand?
Consider doing actual field research over virtual research to get more accurate insights.
- Conduct user interviews with real people
- Observe people who represent your target audience
- Check customer log reports and web analytics to get real insights
Once you have identified these people (or “personas”), you can start thinking about how best to reach out and engage with each persona type about their usage of the website—especially if those interactions will help improve overall user experience across multiple devices (e.g., desktop computers vs. mobile phones).
Know your website’s purpose
When you have a clear understanding of your website’s purpose, it will be easier to determine what kind of content and user experience you need.
For example, say your goal is to improve the productivity of salespeople by providing them with real-time data about their performance and engagements. You want an interface that allows them quick access to this information to act on immediately.
2. Present your persona visually
When you present your personas, it’s important to avoid using avatars or stock images. Instead, use real photos that represent the user’s demographic and personality.
You can also use visual elements such as color palettes and fonts to help people connect with each persona’s context and style.
It’s also important to choose photos that accurately reflect each persona and those that accurately show off those personalities.
For example, you’re designing an online community for millennials looking for new hobbies and interests around town as they’re bored at work all day. Having an actual millennial model showing off what these types of people would wear during happy hour would go over well since it could help others relate better emotionally.
3. Understand what annoys visitors about your website
The best way to understand your visitors’ needs and interests is by identifying their pain points. Pain points are factors that annoy users about your website or mobile app.
For example, the navigation menu on your website may be too long or difficult for visitors to navigate through quickly. Users might get frustrated with this as they try to find what they’re looking for while navigating the site.
When you get what your persona is excited about and gets annoyed with, you’re always one step ahead in making your website user-friendly and winning them over and over again with your design.
Get first-hand opinions of your personas
- Check what they’re talking about in communities—what specifics do they look for in a website, and what makes them leave a website
- Ask questions on forums—mention that you’re conducting research for your website and need their honest opinion on a website’s usability and experience
- Check with real visitors or customers and seek their opinions
4. Create a flowchart of your web design
A flowchart representing your users’ journey through your site is the best way to approach a design process. It helps you understand how users interact with the different sections of your website and what they expect from it.
Draw a diagram showing each part of the user experience on your website and label them accordingly. This could be as simple as drawing boxes for each step in their path and labeling them with text that describes their purpose (e.g., “Sign Up”). You can also add arrows or icons if any specific actions or steps along the way need special attention.
Make sure that any text appearing in these areas is relevant to what’s happening in that section. This will help keep things clear while also making it easier for visitors who might struggle with reading large amounts of content on their screens at once.
5. Test, iterate, and repeat
User personas to help you test your website with real people resembling your personas. This can be done by creating a survey or conducting focus groups with actual users who represent the target audience for your site.
When you’re ready to start testing your designs with users, use your personas as guides for the specifics they should be testing. This will help you prioritize the essential features and ensure that everything works well together before moving on to another iteration.
Use these insights to iterate on your designs until you find a solution that works for everyone involved (including them). You may need multiple rounds of iterations before you get it right—that’s okay. It’s better than failing early on in the process, which would mean wasting time and money on something that doesn’t work (or worse, being forced into an expensive redesign).
Creating a design is iterative and complex, so it’s essential to keep that in mind. You miSourceink you’re done, but there’s always more to do.
Once you’ve tested enough variations of your site or app (and found some bugs or pain areas), re-test them until they work perfectly. After all, your web design is what influences your brand reputation.
User personas complement the web design process
A web design process is highly user-centric.
The key is to keep up with what makes your users tick and respond, so they have a top-class experience using your website and doing business with you.
More importantly, you must not rush your user research process. You don’t want your users experiencing buggy or incomplete content, and you certainly don’t want them feeling like they’ve been sold on something before they even get started with your site.
Start small and iterate until you find something that works for everyone involved.