Humans are a funny bunch. Since we picked up tools, set fire to things, multiplied and eventually evolved into the society we are today, we owe a lot of that success to being good at forming social groups. We’ve managed to survive by grouping together with people we felt were like us. Over the years, traditional groupings have broken down and morphed. Although we might like to think of ourselves as individual, we often view other social formations as a common mass.
When it comes to building and designing digital products such as websites, these inbuilt stereotypes and biases are one of the things that can make traditional personas ineffective. Over the last ten years working on delivering digital products that span the web and mobile, I’ve met many of these biased persona profiles (and probably made a few as well). The old man persona, the young millennial persona, the recent mother persona – many of these creating an unintentional bias that lumps huge groups of people into nondescript masses. We’ve all met the 65+ persona that can’t or won’t use technology, right? Or the young person persona that literally uses their mobile to complete everything they do? But the reality is these typical stereotypes can create a false sense of reality that everyone in that group acts in the same way.
Good and bad personas
Not all personas are bad – let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A good persona will help you clarify questions the board might have about spending money on a website/mobile app/new digital service. It will give you a solid foundation for design and development by exposing the jobs that the digital product needs to be able to support for it to be a success. It will remove anecdotal evidence and subjectivity in favour of hard facts because user goals are black and white.
A bad persona will basically be a nice profile, made in a beautiful pdf, but then placed on a server and never referenced again. It will reinforce bias, and make you focus on subjective opinions gathered from those around you.
The key thing to realise is that all users are trying to fulfil a goal
The goal might be exactly the same for a new mum, an elderly man or a millennial. By focusing on the goal, you can get to the heart of what your digital product needs to deliver without wasting time creating several different personas simply because your audience is so diverse. The differences between your audience should be celebrated when trying to attract them to your website through advertising and wider marketing. Once the mum, elderly man or millennial are there, just help them to achieve their goal, quickly and easily.
By solving a specific job, you will start creating digital experiences that delight your users and meet your own specific business goals. Focus on the jobs that people want to complete by using your online products and you will push past bias and start to open up new opportunities that will place you ahead of your peers.
Not all charities can afford to work with a digital agency to help them design and deliver their next website or digital product. Yoyo have created a free eBook called Think Experience to help debunk some of the fears around digital projects. You can read more about creating goal led personas in chapter one of the series, download it here.
Over the next 3 months, Yoyo will release more chapters, giving charities the digital skills they need to understand how to define and create digital products that deliver on their promises.