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Why You Should Create Personas Before Your Association Website Re-Design & How To Do It

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.  Did you play with dolls as a kid?  G.I. Joe?  Barbie?  Betcha did.  Think back on your childhood lazy Saturday afternoons that passed by like a blink, while you immersed yourself in a world of make believe.

For a time, you were a battle hero, sacrificing your life for another.  Your fellow soldiers were trapped in the trenches. There was only one way out.  One brave man would need to risk his life.  And you, the lone, dauntless sole, leapt to your feet.  You scaled the mud wall and exposed yourself to the enemy.  Charging valiantly towards the opposition, eluding bullets, you gave your enemy the moment of distraction your kinsmen needed to retreat to safety.  The adrenaline.  The rush.  Can you feel it?

As a child, you imagined living the life of your hero.  You escaped into a life that was not your own.  And frankly, you’re still a kid.  You’ve never really grown up.  You probably no longer play with plastic figurines (or perhaps you do?), but subconsciously your mind still has the capability of pretending.  Which brings us to our point…

If you are to create a marketing strategy and website experience for your members that is successful, you must first start by pretending that you are your members.  You must immerse yourself into their world to feel their pains, struggles, and frustrations.  You must know what delights them, what excites them, and what motivates them.

If you don’t make the time to create personas, your website re-design and marketing efforts will suffer the consequences.  My second grade son plays a math app on my iPhone that he calls “Rocket Math.”  If he successfully completes a round of addition or subtraction, he gets rocket boosters.  Once he loads up his rocket with hefty boosters that are properly balanced, he’s set to launch his rocket.  Assuming that he has suitably tuned his rocket, it launches far above the earth’s atmosphere and the points start ringing in.  Every so often though, he decides he wants to be a decorator instead of a rocket scientist.  Rather than properly balancing his ship with his boosters, he loads it up with random gimmicky colored boosters.  And every time we watch the launch of these fabulously colored, entirely unbalanced rocketships, we howl with laughter as it propels only a few sad feet into the air before it plummets to the ground and shatters in pieces.

Speaking candidly, association marketers and web designers that launch projects without having properly researched their members’ needs are doomed to fail.  They are launching a comically decorated rocket ship with no engineering to foster its success.

So what should you do to ensure the success of your association website re-design?  Join the land of make-believe.  Step out of your own body and become your members.  Create “personas.”

Personas are fictional people used to depict a particular demographic. The idea is to create imaginary people who represent real member types. These personas are complete with names, jobs, families, and most importantly goals and needs. These are people that you are trying to cater to. The core of your target audience becomes more real and tangible when you flesh them out as personas. This helps you walk in your desired member’s shoes instead of your own. To be sure, YOU ARE NOT YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE!! Let your members (their personas) speak for themselves.

– Christian Motter, Praxsys Technologies

 

3 Steps to Implement Member Personas:

1.  Find out who your members are.  Gather data and analyze it.  Ask yourself and your team these questions:

  • What does a day in their life look like?
  • What do they struggle with?  (Pain points are potential selling points…can your association make their life easier?)
  • Is there a trend in demographic information?  Are most members male or female?  What is their age?  Are they married, and do they have children?  Where do they live?  Do they work in the city, suburbs, or in the country?
  • How technically savvy are they?
  • To what degree are they connected via social media?  What social media channels?
  • What are their goals?  What do they hope for?
  • What would prevent them from joining or renewing their membership with your association?
  • Why would they want to come to your conference?
  • What would prevent them from coming to your conference?

2.  Based on your research, create a profile for two or three personas.  Each persona profile should include:

  • A name (example: Truck driver Tom)
  • Job title
  • Description of his/her struggles & goals
  • Demographics (age, education, etc.)
  • Description of environment (work and home)
  • Description of tech capabilities/comfort level with technology
  • A quote of what he/she might say about your association
  • A photograph that will help your marketing team understand who they are reaching out to.  Photographs make a persona feel real.

3.  Choose a primary and secondary persona.

Use your primary and secondary personas for every decision you make through the life of your website re-design project and for all your marketing strategies moving forward.  Print your profiles in a large-scale format and hang them in your work environment.  Use the persona profiles as the foundation for all decisions large and small. 

Remember that you are not designing a website for your own purpose.  You are designing it for your members’ use in order to meet their needs.  The decisions you make regarding your website have nothing to do with what you like, and everything to do with what your members want.

 

Time to play make-believe again.  Be G.I. Joe.  Be Barbie.  Be your members.

Why You Should Create Personas Before Your Association Website Re-Design & How To Do It

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.  Did you play with dolls as a kid?  G.I. Joe?  Barbie?  Betcha did.  Think back on your childhood lazy Saturday afternoons that passed by like a blink, while you immersed yourself in a world of make believe.

For a time, you were a battle hero, sacrificing your life for another.  Your fellow soldiers were trapped in the trenches. There was only one way out.  One brave man would need to risk his life.  And you, the lone, dauntless sole, leapt to your feet.  You scaled the mud wall and exposed yourself to the enemy.  Charging valiantly towards the opposition, eluding bullets, you gave your enemy the moment of distraction your kinsmen needed to retreat to safety.  The adrenaline.  The rush.  Can you feel it?

As a child, you imagined living the life of your hero.  You escaped into a life that was not your own.  And frankly, you’re still a kid.  You’ve never really grown up.  You probably no longer play with plastic figurines (or perhaps you do?), but subconsciously your mind still has the capability of pretending.  Which brings us to our point…

If you are to create a marketing strategy and website experience for your members that is successful, you must first start by pretending that you are your members.  You must immerse yourself into their world to feel their pains, struggles, and frustrations.  You must know what delights them, what excites them, and what motivates them.

If you don’t make the time to create personas, your website re-design and marketing efforts will suffer the consequences.  My second grade son plays a math app on my iPhone that he calls “Rocket Math.”  If he successfully completes a round of addition or subtraction, he gets rocket boosters.  Once he loads up his rocket with hefty boosters that are properly balanced, he’s set to launch his rocket.  Assuming that he has suitably tuned his rocket, it launches far above the earth’s atmosphere and the points start ringing in.  Every so often though, he decides he wants to be a decorator instead of a rocket scientist.  Rather than properly balancing his ship with his boosters, he loads it up with random gimmicky colored boosters.  And every time we watch the launch of these fabulously colored, entirely unbalanced rocketships, we howl with laughter as it propels only a few sad feet into the air before it plummets to the ground and shatters in pieces.

Speaking candidly, association marketers and web designers that launch projects without having properly researched their members’ needs are doomed to fail.  They are launching a comically decorated rocket ship with no engineering to foster its success.

So what should you do to ensure the success of your association website re-design?  Join the land of make-believe.  Step out of your own body and become your members.  Create “personas.”

Personas are fictional people used to depict a particular demographic. The idea is to create imaginary people who represent real member types. These personas are complete with names, jobs, families, and most importantly goals and needs. These are people that you are trying to cater to. The core of your target audience becomes more real and tangible when you flesh them out as personas. This helps you walk in your desired member’s shoes instead of your own. To be sure, YOU ARE NOT YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE!! Let your members (their personas) speak for themselves.

– Christian Motter, Praxsys Technologies

 

3 Steps to Implement Member Personas:

1.  Find out who your members are.  Gather data and analyze it.  Ask yourself and your team these questions:

  • What does a day in their life look like?
  • What do they struggle with?  (Pain points are potential selling points…can your association make their life easier?)
  • Is there a trend in demographic information?  Are most members male or female?  What is their age?  Are they married, and do they have children?  Where do they live?  Do they work in the city, suburbs, or in the country?
  • How technically savvy are they?
  • To what degree are they connected via social media?  What social media channels?
  • What are their goals?  What do they hope for?
  • What would prevent them from joining or renewing their membership with your association?
  • Why would they want to come to your conference?
  • What would prevent them from coming to your conference?

2.  Based on your research, create a profile for two or three personas.  Each persona profile should include:

  • A name (example: Truck driver Tom)
  • Job title
  • Description of his/her struggles & goals
  • Demographics (age, education, etc.)
  • Description of environment (work and home)
  • Description of tech capabilities/comfort level with technology
  • A quote of what he/she might say about your association
  • A photograph that will help your marketing team understand who they are reaching out to.  Photographs make a persona feel real.

3.  Choose a primary and secondary persona.

Use your primary and secondary personas for every decision you make through the life of your website re-design project and for all your marketing strategies moving forward.  Print your profiles in a large-scale format and hang them in your work environment.  Use the persona profiles as the foundation for all decisions large and small. 

Remember that you are not designing a website for your own purpose.  You are designing it for your members’ use in order to meet their needs.  The decisions you make regarding your website have nothing to do with what you like, and everything to do with what your members want.

 

Time to play make-believe again.  Be G.I. Joe.  Be Barbie.  Be your members.

Gina Leigh

Gina is the Senior Vice President of Design and Marketing for Praxsys Technologies. Her responsibilities include understanding the unique needs of non profits for website design and development, and the management of day to day operations of the design division including designers, developers, user experience engineers, information architects, and project managers. She is responsible for the overall creative and artistic direction on all projects, tracking trends in UI/UX Design, and managing relationship with clients. When she's not working, you'll find her in the kitchen with her family or on a kayak.