A web persona is a fictional individual that you create to represent one of your audiences, and it is meant to help you make important decisions in your redesign processes based on user needs. This exercise can feel silly – giving this pretend person a name, picking out a stock image, talking about them like they’re your pal. But done well, personas are extremely valuable! At iFactory, web personas are a critical driver of our process. The key is to be selective about the information you include.

It’s tempting to give a fictional persona an entire life story, explicitly detail every single one of their technological preferences, pick out the car they drive, and create mood boards for their favorite colors. But most of this information will not actually directly impact the way in which you build your site. Your personas should balance the following, in this priority order:

  1. The most important tasks this web persona will be coming to your website to complete
  2. Personal information about this persona that will affect how they complete these tasks
  3. What you want your persona to do, or what you want to communicate to them

Consider what your web persona wants to do

This should form the bulk of your persona; even if your persona only includes a list of the tasks they want to complete, it will be useful to you. Knowing these tasks sets your design’s priorities. As you go through your project, you will always be able to check back and ensure that each phase of your work facilitates these tasks:

  • Does your sitemap contain pages and clear labels for completing these tasks?
  • Do your wireframes and visual designs prioritize content relevant to getting these things done?
  • Does the content that would fulfill this user need actually exist?

Focus on relevant facts 

By bringing your focus to the tasks your user will complete, this kind of information should naturally begin to fall out. If you are a university, for example, what is your persona’s financial situation? How will this affect how they approach your school, and what they might look for first? Does your persona know what program they want to study? Will they be looking for something specific or will they want a good browsing interface? Do they have outside people, such as parents, influencing their decisions? What do these influencers want to know? Is there something that stresses your persona out, that you will need to reassure them about?

Include what you want to communicate

After you have finished thinking about your user’s needs and goals, you can layer in your own business objectives. Some of the tasks your user wants to complete might be your objectives, too; to help you differentiate what should go where, allow your business objectives to be more high-level and strategic. What feeling do you want this persona to come away with? What do you want them to discover? What content are they looking for? Your objectives will assist in crafting the messaging that your personas encounter while completing their tasks.

Understand why web personas matter

Well-crafted, efficient personas become a language you can use. They act as a useful conceptual shorthand for critiquing your work, both with your design team and with your client; “I like XYZ feature, but in this place it won’t work for our persona Tina, because she needs to complete ABC task.” Throughout the project, personas reinforce the primary goal of good web design — that the user’s needs must come first.

With this in mind, you’re ready to begin creating valuable web personas for your website redesign. And remember, good web personas serve as a great foundation, but can and should be optimized and refined over time.