All About Personas

In 1998, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper, introduced the use of personas as a practical design tool. Cooper’s 25-page description of personas ignited a fire in the software industry that is still blazing more then fifteen years later.

The concept is fairly simple. It involved designers putting themselves in their user’s shoes, imagining different personas that might be using the software. Then they design based on different persona’s potential mindsets.

A persona is a representation of a customer. They are fictional characters that we create, and they serve as a reminder of who our users are. Like any good fiction, a well-made persona has its own story to tell. The more believable the story, the better representation the persona is of users; the more accurate the representation, the more likely our decisions will reflect the user’s needs.

Our persona’s “story” consists of a name and photo, title, byline, and, most importantly, his goals and frustrations (or “pain points”). Our job is to meet his goals and solve his frustrations with what we’re building. Ultimately, personas help us make the user’s needs more memorable throughout the process.

Personas created for a persuasive experience must initially be defined by completely understanding their needs. Their needs lead into character biographies that represent and convey their worldview, attitude, personality, and behavior. Personas are constructed from research that describes their demographics, psychographics, and topographics related to how they approach the buying decision process for the products or services offered. This provides insight into the language these individuals use.

Keywords and trigger words for each of these personas also vary by where they are in the purchase consideration process. We tie keyword research back to our personas.

Your site has many types of visitors. Very few magician’s sites cater to only one type of visitor with one set of demographic, psychographic, and topographic characteristics. As a very simplistic example, a mother coming to book a birthday show for little Johnny isn’t necessarily going to be persuaded by the same things as the father might. Mom and Dad have similar goals, but often very different motivations.

We use personas to plan the click-through-experience models, or persuasion scenarios, each persona will have on the Web site. We allow for multiple personas to reach many of the same pages, but must separately address their needs.

Think of your web site as a house that you’re trying to sell to a prospective buyer.

When you first meet the buyer, you shake his hand, ask some simple questions, perhaps, take note of his expressions and tone of voice. You are essentially creating a persona, based on what you have briefly learned about the man.

The house you are trying to sell has several doors. You might want to take some buyers through the front door, perhaps to impress them with a fancy entryway. Others you might want to take through the kitchen door, to show them how intimate the house can feel. Still others might best be introduced to the house through the garage entrance. As a salesman, you recognize that different people — different personas — have different interests and will often be persuaded by very different things.

On the Internet you don’t get to shake anyone’s hand or size up their expressions and tone of voice as you talk to them. So you have to use your imagination (hopefully coupled with a lot of experience). You also don’t get to decide which door they will use to enter your “house.” They’ll make that decision, but you have to insure the door they want exists for them. Which door they choose will then determine the path they will take to YOUR ultimate goal, a paying gig.

The personas you need will depend, in part, on your market and your audience. Obviously, a children’s magician is going to need very different personas from a corporate magician. Less obvious, but equally true, a children’s magician in a large metro area like Detroit is going to use different personas than someone in a small village like Colon.

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