All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips


Know thy customer, pt 2 — but how?
June 4, 2009, 4:51 am
Filed under: personas, usability basics

Ok, you’re convinced that it’s a good idea to understand your customers in depth.  But how?

One of the best ways is to use design personas.  Alan Cooper popularized the whole area of design personas in his book “The Inmates are Running the Assylum” in 1998.  For all the gory details, see “The Origin of Personas” or “Making Personas more powerful:  Details to drive strategic and tactical design”

Wikipedia defines a design persona as “an artifact that consists of a narrative relating to a desired user or customer’s daily behavior patterns, using specific details, not generalities”.  A persona is given a name, history, rich description, and even a picture.  Typically a site will have one or two primary personas and a handful of secondary personas that, together, embody the key characteristics of the site’s main target customers.

In addition to developing personas, you can learn a lot about your customers by talking with them in individual interviews or by phone, watching them use a website (even if it’s not yours), or asking questions in basic surveys. 

However you do it, your goal should be to come away with a clear understanding of who your customers are, what they’re trying to do, why, and how they need your site to help them.

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