I've found it useful to define a single idealised user when creating a web page or web site. By addressing the words and design to that one person writing and design are easier. Also new feature ideas are easier to accept or reject, when evaluated against a good persona.
Originally published in "Managing High Impact, No Nonsense web pages for the Busy Executive" 03 September 1998.
Last Edited 16 August 2005
It's really easy to publish on the web. And it shows. A lot of what you find is not much use, despite the advances in search engine design. How often do you find:
Getting these things right is not hard, if you start off correctly. If you try to add them after, there might be more effort than you want to spend.
One way to achieve a good result is to forget about that large range of customers you might have been thinking about. Instead just think of one customer. Think of him in detail, give him a name and work through exactly what he will do on your site.
This idealised customer is a persona. An artificial person. To get closer to him, give him a name. Lets call him Stuart. Some people like to work up a detailed dossier, complete with photograph, family life and history. Others have a summary encapsulated in a plastic sleeve that could be used as a mouse pad. I like to keep the additional information to a minimum, enough so you know Stuart, but not so much that it gets in the way. The exact balance of detail will depend on the team, that works with him.
I like to base Stuart at heart on a real person. Modified with research and interviews. He should, in my view, have a coherent personality and be rather hard to please. Why hard to please? If he's hard to please, and your web site does please him, then less demanding people are also likely to go away happy.
Experience tells you what aspects of Stuart you need to capture. Think of the things that annoy you about web sites. Catch yourself frowning. Make notes. These will help describe the judgements Stuart makes.
I have defined a sort of electronic Stuart. He makes an overall judgement about a web site, that you might be able to use in your business. I'll be exploring what he thinks, in articles on this site.
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