Blog: Website Design

The Definitive Guide to Great Web Design, part 2: How Customer Personas Grow Engagement & Sales

Posted by in Website Design on Friday, May 2, 2014

Website Design

In the first part of our guide, we discussed how:

  • A great website design is one that makes it easy for people to accomplish what they came to your site to do.
  • Successful web design makes it easy for your visitors to accomplish specific goals on your site.
  • For best results, design functionality should take greater precedence over visual elements of design.

Now we're going to cover the second aspect of great web design – namely, your website's visitors.

Customer Focused Web Design: Who are you and what do you want?

Creating a site that meets the needs of your customers from their point of view will improve your conversion rate and grow engagement. However, in order to do that you must first understand the typical needs and desires of your best customers.

While this sounds obvious, implementation can be tricky. Imagine this:

You've just gotten home to discover that a storm has taken out a large portion of your roof. Rain water is pouring in from the ceiling onto the floor. Frantic, you grab a bucket to catch as much water as you can, then get on the phone to call the closest roofer and cleanup crew.

When the person on the other end of the phone answers, you try to explain your problem but they don't listen. Instead, the person reads from a script. They tell you how long they've been in business, how many satisfied customers they have, what kinds of equipment they use…

Frustrated, you hang up and move on to the next company.

While it seems obvious that no one would really answer the phone and talk to potential customers in this way, all too often companies do the online equivalent.

Pushing irrelevant information onto your main pages or making it difficult for visitors to find what they are looking for will have the same effect – your potential customers will move on to a website that has what they need right up front.

Before you commit to what information to put on your site and how to present it, you first need to understand who your customers are and what they want when they come to your site.

How to Design a Relevant Customer Persona

While your website may reach many visitors at once, the reality is that in most cases each of those visitors is reading and interacting with your site on an individual basis. This means that your goals for your website can only be achieved by meeting the needs of your potential customers one website visitor at a time.

A customer persona solves the problem of one-to-one communication and design by giving you a "composite" person that you can keep in mind as you tailor your messaging, organization, and other usability design aspects.

Who are your target customers, really? What are their shopping habits, both online and off? Here are some questions to consider as you put together your customer persona:

  • Where do my target customers live and shop?
  • What are their tastes?
  • What is their budget?
  • Are my customers mobile users?
  • What is their demographic make-up?
  • What personality or business characteristics do my clients have in common?
  • What interests do they have in common?
  • What do they read?
  • What other sites do they visit?
  • What blogs or newsgroups do they frequent?

Develop a clear picture of the target customers' decision-making criteria

When shopping for a car, you may evaluate the car's price, styling, fuel economy, etc. For some of us, styling may be most important. For others, it may be performance and fuel economy. What are the key factors that our target customer will weigh before making their purchase decision? Consider:

  • Price
  • Speed
  • Stability
  • Reputation
  • Quality
  • Service
  • Selection
  • Creativity

Compile the traits that most of your customers have in common into an individual that will represent your customer persona. For example, a typical customer in our roofing scenario might look like this:

Name: Mark Smith
Age:  41
Marital Status: Married
Income: $98,000/year
Interests: Golf, Hiking, Fishing

General Scenario:

Mark needs to feel confident that the work on his roof is being done by licensed professionals who can get a high-quality job done quickly. He wants his usual routine to be back to normal as soon as possible, and doesn't mind paying extra for excellent, professional service.

Mark has been burned by other contractors in the past, and will expect to see credentials and insurance are in order before he ever makes a purchase decision. Because Mark has a family with a busy schedule, any contractor who can work around his hours will be a huge plus.

Bringing it Together: Persona + Web Design

As you flesh out your persona more (and you may have multiple personas to fit with various aspects of your business) you will naturally come to key areas where customer needs overlap with your expertise.

Highlight these areas of convergence between the factors that are important to clients and those that your company is particularly skilled at addressing.

In our example above, speed is a key decision factor in our persona's motivation to buy. Qualifications are also important, as our persona needs to know that the company is professional.

This means that we should focus on putting our speed front and center in the messaging, and make it easy for the customer to research our qualifications. Comparatively, it may not be as important to highlight how many years we've been in business, or the tools we use to complete the job.

Once you've gotten a handle on what messaging will be important to include, you're ready to begin the process of organizing it logically.

In part 3 of Great Web Design, we'll discuss some methods for optimizing your sitemap as well as making it easy for your website visitors to find the information that's most important to them.

Your Turn

Have you created a persona for your company in the past? If so, what challenges did you run into when trying to make your persona realistic? Let us know.

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