Chances are you’ve not created user personas for your audience.
I’m going to take you through what user personas are and how they can help you. Then to top it all off, at the base of the article, if you sign up to my mailing list, I’ll send you a free user persona worksheet that I have created for you to use.
During the day, I work as a product manager for a major website in New Zealand. I’m responsible for two web properties receiving several million hits per month and generate $6 million dollars of revenue per year.
Three years ago I was fortunate to attend a day long workshop with Jeff Gothelf on Lean UX, which was based on his book of the same name. The workshop took it’s foundation from The Lean Startup, if you haven’t read this book you should.
Jeff applied the methodology to UX. The Lean Startup is about getting a business up and running fast, with minimal cost by taking a cyclical path to build, learn and measure to improve your product or service.
I took away a bucketful of learning from the workshop, despite having read The Lean Startup. These amazing lessons have carried me forward through my career since and can most definitely help you and I become better bloggers and increase engagement, traffic and sales along the way.
If you want to see all those benefits then keep reading.
User personas is a prerequisite in keeping you focused on the one thing that should matter the most, your readers.
User personas – say what?
A user persona is a model designers use to represent the users of their system. It’s a description of your user.
For you and I, it’s primarily our readers; but you may also create personas for your advertisers if you sell ad space or you’re willing to write sponsored posts.
Companies often spend time out in the field researching their market to come up with perfect personas that strongly reflect their customers or users. In applying The Lean Startup approach Jeff Gothelf considers this differently and places forward a notion of “proto-personas”.
If you are just starting your blog, or you are just starting a business, you may not truly know who your ideal market is. Let’s face it, who has buckets of cash and time to go around conducting research to find out these things when you can do it so much quicker?
Proto-personas allow you to make a best guess at who is going to use your system and why.
Now, I hear you all of a sudden gasping and saying, “We’re guessing!?”.
Yes, we’re guessing.
These are assumptions. You’re allowed to make assumptions when you don’t know so cut yourself some slack, all science starts with a hypothesis.
Hopefully they will be somewhat informed assumptions if you already have a good idea what your blog or product is about then you must have a reasonable idea as to who you think will read it.
If you’re running a blog about children’s crafts then you’re likely targeting parents.
We generally create 3-4 user personas, the less the better but you’re probably going to have more than 1, unless you’re super defining your market.
You’re going to sketch these onto a piece of paper – this makes them quick to create, but more importantly quick to update. As you progress with your blog you should find ways to get to know your readers.
You may do this through the blog comments, chatting with readers via feedback email, or through webinars and private coaching sessions.
Every time you learn more about your audience or market you update your user personas so they more accurately reflect the findings.
Take a large view of your audience however, you’re looking for the larger segments.
For example, if you make an initial assumption that your audience is all women and you create two personas to reflect that, then later find out that 40% of your audience is men then you want to either swap one of your personas for a man or add a third one in.
With a “Lean” approach you’re making initial assumptions and adjusting as you learn.
The user persona, deconstructed
There’s 4 simple elements to a user persona
- Sketch and name – you’re going to draw a picture of your perfect customer and give them a name, age and a “label” to describe them.
- Behavioral and demographic information – describe your user. Where do they live? Do they have kids? What is their job and income? What are their goals? What are their values?
- Pain points and needs – What are the main problems they have in their life and why? How often do these occur? Are there issues they face on a daily basis?
- Potential solutions – Looking at their information, with a little more focus on their pain points, what kind of solutions could you offer them that would help? This could be as simple as information in your blog that you provide for free, or a course you could set up and charge for.
These are going to be laid out on a piece of paper in a quadrant. The top half, points 1 & 2, contains information about who the user is. The bottom half contains the meat. These are the users needs and frustrations and how you could potential solve those problems.
If you are having problems thinking about how to monetize your blog this may start to unleash some ideas because what you will start to do is view your blog from their perspective and the problems they face.
As you begin to write these you’ll start to think of ideas for blog posts or information you could create, like an e-book. Let me show you an example,
My example user persona
Let’s say I am considering running a healthy living blog. I want to come up with three different personas. They need to be different to give me some breadth. Here is one to give you an idea.
- Meet my reader – Jenny. She’s 32, she’s a “stay at home Mom”
- Behavioral and demographic information – Jenny lives in New York. She has two children age 3 & 5. She’s married, her husband, Dan, is a busy executive and earns over $100,000 a year. Jenny used to work in marketing but they opted for her to stay at home and look after the kids when her first child, Natasha, came along 5 years ago. They are planning another baby, they are hoping for a boy. They live comfortably but Dan and Jenny are keen to pay down their mortgage so they are always looking for ways to make their money work better for them.The eldest child just started school and their three year old, Danielle, just started kindergarten.They try to live healthily but they both struggle to find time. Exercise can be a problem in their busy lives and they often don’t make time for healthy meals, opting for take out more than they’d like.Dan’s parents live nearby but Dan’s father is suffering with cancer. Jenny tried to help out where she can which often involves cooking meals and helping with trips to the hospital for treatment. Jenny’s parents live an hour and half drive away so can’t help.
- Pain points and needs – Jenny is short on time. Between keeping her home in order, the kids on the move and helping with Dan’s parents she struggles to find much time or energy left for cooking meals, let alone her. When she does cook they tend to eat with Dan’s parents to take the pressure off them. They don’t tend to know what foods are best for them either. They need healthy, nutritious meals and advice.
- Potential solutions – Easy to absorb information on what food’s are good – a podcast, YouTube videos, e-book or short blog posts.
Tips on food that is good for cancer patients.
Information about sustaining energy levels for Mom’s on the move.
Quick, simple, healthy snacks and meals for food on the go that can be prepared the night before – Jenny and Dan can prepare these together for the entire family.
Money saving tips for healthy meals.
I’m sure you could keep going, but it gives you a really good idea how to get started.
Why use a user personas?
Simply put, they help you focus. You create a vision of a person with problems and needs. Then as you write each blog post you imagine talking to these 3-4 people. All of a sudden your inner voice comes out, you’ll write more naturally and you’ll communicate in a way that is meaningful to your audience.
If you’re wanting to monetize your blog then understanding their needs and pain points will help you find solutions to their problems that you can charge for.
Here’s a free user persona worksheet from me to you
Here is my gift to you.
Sign up to email list in the form below and I’ll send you a pdf copy of a user persona worksheet that I have created just for you. Feel free to share it about but all I ask is you don’t modify it and please reference this blog post if you share it on your own site.
Sharing is caring and Karma is a beautiful thing.
If you have any questions at all, slip them into the comments and I’ll be happy to help where I can.