Design personas or digital profiling - which will you use? Part 2

This article is the second of a two-part series exploring design personas and digital profiling. Part one looked at exactly what design personas are, but I will now focus on the importance of digital audience profiling and segmentation, and how marketing personas or digital audience profiles can be used. 

PART 2

Perfect your segmentation and personalisation planning with profiling 

Marketing profiles describe and depict the key differences between your target audience groups and other audience groups or segments. They summarise the demographics or characteristics that distinguish a specific group.  If you were marketing to magicians, witches and wizards, a profile might describe who they are, in terms of their traits and demographics and it might depict the products they’re most likely to be interested in.

Their purpose is to clarify the factors that distinguish or differentiate a particular audience group. Profiles simplify audience intent – they can describe what a specific audience wants to buy or needs to achieve whilst also describing who ‘they’ are and their wider context or background.  

In some ways a marketing profile is more of a stereotype than an archetype – a wizard is an example of an audience you could profile – someone who wears pointy hats, carries a staff, buys wands and has a gentle, wise demeanor whilst a design persona is a character exemplifying the traits that you really need to care about when designing or developing stories for a new website or system.  

Using a persona-like template for a digital audience profile can simplify and improve communication about audience group differences. This helps people to understand the right kinds of content and experience to target or direct at specific audience groups.

Figure 2: An example template for a digital profile. Here, research insight defining the group, not just the individual is included.

Audience segmentation and digital marketing profiles

Audience profiling can be leveraged in the design of personalisation rules for websites. By defining digital audience profiles for groups who share different information needs, demographics or interests, you can target specific content promotions or specific content links at these different audience groups. For example, Easyjet use GEOIP data to show relevant flights from a person’s local airport on their personalised home page and can serve different hero banners or destination deals to different users based on their searches or ‘marketing persona’.  

EasyJet’s home page flight offers are personalised based on a person’s GEOIP and searches.

In designing personalisation rules for site content and navigation, more quantitative data is leveraged but qualitative research can also bring added value. Segmentation rules can define which features to promote to different audience groups but they don’t always give direction on how to design content or experience for distinct audience groups. Audience segmentation can be complex and multidimensional and marketing personas are a useful way to simplify and communicate what’s important or different about each of the identified audience groups.  Using marketing personas as a tool within an organisation  delivering personalised content can help teams decide on and contribute the right types of content or messaging to different target groups.  

A marketing persona might describe a snapshot of audience traits, preferences and segmentation data at a given point in time; leveraging data from live site analytics, survey research and behavioural descriptions of users who fit a particular audience group.  

Should your marketing profiles and personas correlate?

Design personas are qualitative rich descriptions that support designers in tailoring specific aspects of a user interface to accommodate different user needs or goals. Digital audience profiles simplify and communicate the common traits, demographics or preferences of distinct audience groups. Digital audience profiles may include more quantitative information, for example the average age range for this audience group, the % of time they spend on social networks or their likelihood to use specific devices for browsing the web. 

It’s often the case that there’s not a direct correlation between digital marketing profiles and design personas. Design personas are most useful when employed in the context of specific design problems and it’s useful to update or evolve your persona’s characteristics and responses when they come across a new feature or aspect of your design.  

Marketing profiles help people within an organisation understand which audience groups are most likely to bring in most revenue and can support designers and copywriters by highlighting the types of content or experience that will deliver the most value to distinct audience segments. If you have both profiles and personas, this can lead to confusion - a good solution is to map your ‘design personas’ to the most relevant audience groups. 

Conclusion

To get the most value from design personas and marketing personas, keep them updated as you design, learn and understand more about the system you’re improving. Show their involvement in your design process by integrating details of their experience into sketches, discussions and conceptual design deliverables. 

Use personas to help you focus in on the immediate problem you’re trying to solve. Update your design personas to characterise what you’ve learnt about how people are adopting new features or functionality on your live website. Use marketing personas to communicate or identify new distinctions between defined audience groups. Update them based on the outcomes of A/B testing or usability evaluations and through test and learn experiments, discover which segmentation and profiling rules offer the most value to your target audience groups.