English articles, Top Tasks

Are you a persona?

Are you a persona? Well, I’m not, as far as I remember. And I don’t know anyone who is or would want to be. So, why are websites being organized based on personas that don’t exist?

5 reasons not to use personas.

Personas and target groups: same issues

How do you arrange your website for target groups? Patients, staff, visitors in hospitals. Students, future students, academic staff, other staff in universities. Large companies, SMEs, self-employed in technology services sites.

Maybe you shouldn’t take the target audiences as basis, but their tasks. Different groups may have the largely same task.

Personas often don’t fit all

People often don’t want to choose a profile on a website. They may not relate to the words used to describe the profiles. They often don’t find a category they fit in. Or hesitate. Or get confused. In a city website, will I find what I need in ‘citizen’ or in ‘business’ if I am living and having a small business in that city?

Based on hypotheses, not on evidence

I understand the process of crunching the often countless customer and visitor profiles into a small number of personas, often 5 to 9. It is a similar process we use to crunch long task lists into a task shortlist that we then put to the vote in order to have evidence for ranking the top tasks.

However, the process is dealing with who people are instead of looking at what they do and what they come for. Who they are is definitely interesting. Identifying who they are surely is useful evidence. But building a website based on who they are is building a website on hypotheses. And then you’re very close to based on opinion.

Born organization-centric

Too often, creating personas is trying to group web visitors into boxes. Customers are not looking for a box they could fit in when they go to a website, they are just looking to do what they came for. If personas are the internal guidance for adapting the navigation to the user needs, then the boxes may be the wrong ones. They tend to stay close to the existing schemes of what the organization has to offer. Personas are conceived by the organization and are being born in the organization.

In a recent case, an animated discussion grew about how to present law information. The persona approach finally resulted in as many as 5 navigation systems to the same law content rewritten with small or bigger tweaks for every persona.
The task approach on the other hand resulted paths such as in the finding law (say, the documents), finding out about the how a law is being made and how it can be influenced, finding out what the present status of a specific law-in-the-making is, and finding out how to be compliant with a specific law.

Manage the visitor’s task

On the web, there is no better way to satisfy the visitor than by managing the visitor’s task. What is a good website? It’s a website that lets the customers do what they came for. For the organization, it is important for sure to understand who the customers are, to pu them in boxes, maybe even to turn them into personas.

But the customers don’t care about the organization boxes. They want to complete their task. And they expect the organization to help them with that task.


About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.


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