We expect our website and mobile presence to do it all: engage existing and potential clients, recruit top talent, and serve up just the right piece of content at exactly the right time. Personas are a proven tool to help us overcome our internal biases and to understand what it takes to provide a great experience for multiple audiences.
Listen as senior information architects, content strategists and technologists discuss tools for developing personas and the value inherent in persona development.
Senior Information Architect and Content Strategist
The Understanding Group (TUG)
Senior Information Architect
The Understanding Group (TUG)
President and Founder
Rubenstein Technology Group
Director of Business Development
Rubenstein Technology Group
The Understanding Group is an information architecture consultancy dedicated to making the complex clear. TUG has helped clients such as Herman Miller, American Concrete Institute, and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, whose website was recently recognized with a Nonprofit PR Award by PRNews.
George: Hello and good afternoon to everyone. My name is George Sanchez, Director of Business Development at RubensteinTech. Along with Jaron Rubenstein, our founder and President we'll be moderating today's installment of RubyLaw Thought Leadership series. Understand Your Audience: Persona Development 101. For those of you that are not familiar with RubyLaw. RubyLaw is an industry leading and powerful web content management system and digital marketing solution designed to meet the web, mobile marketing, and proposal generating needs of leading law firms. RubyLaw is the result of working with Am Law 200 firms for more than five years. Understanding the drawbacks and inefficiencies of their current technology options. And offering a tailored alternative that includes the technical innovation these firms require to excel online. The RubyLaw Thought Leadership series is our effort to support the big opportunity firms have to take advantage of the shift into digital marketing more generally. And to adjust it to the changing expectations of law firm stakeholders. As we see it, the digital marketing space is wide open for firms looking to create a competitive advantage. One of the best ways firms can create a competitive advantage is by having a deeper understanding of their audience relative to the competition. Our talented panel of experts and friends at The Understanding Group will provide us with a best practices approach to developing personas, and the practical benefits thereof. If anyone has questions or comments, feel free to send those via Twitter using the handle at rubensteintech, hashtag RubyLaw Or you can also feel free to send me questions via Webex, you can chat me, I'm George Sanchez. Or, I should show up as a panelist or as a moderator. Right now I'd like to hand the floor over to Bill Holsinger-Robinson, Vice President of Client Services for The Understanding Group. Hey Bill, are you there?
Bill: I am here, can you here me?
George: Yes, welcome.
Bill: Excellent, thank you.
George: Are you ready to give a rocking presentation today?
Bill: The team is completely ready to rock the presentation out from top to bottom. So, we're excited to be here.
George: Great, well go ahead, it's your show.
Bill: Excellent. What I'll do is, quick do an overview of our agenda for the day. Talk a little bit about who The Understanding Group is, and then pass the conversation off to some of my colleagues. So, we will do an overview of information architecture. A conversation about common issues facing law firms, and what our approach, The Understanding Group approach would be to this. Have some dialog around understanding users through personas. And how personas inform both information architecture, content strategy and we should have plenty of time for questions afterwards.
The Understanding Group
Bill: So, the question is, who are we? We are The Understanding Group. We're a firm that's a little bit older than three years right now. With headquarters in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan. With staff also in Los Angels and Philadelphia. We're a multi-disciplinary team of highly-skilled, information architects dedicated to making the complex clear. Like architects in the built environment, we aim to build places that are both beautiful, strong and scalable. And The Understanding Group's information architects are some of the most experienced in the world. Some of our past clients include brands like: Herman Miller, Thomson Reuters, National Safety Council and The University of Michigan, as well as quite a few others. And let me introduce you to our team. I am Bill Holsinger-Robinson. I'm the VP of Client Services. I've got 16 plus years experience in the digital and business strategy space with both large and small corporations. Including companies like Herman Miller and a wide variety of start-ups. I also currently hold a position at Grand Valley State University as the Minor Endowed Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Next we have Jessica DuVerneay, who's an information architect on our team. Jessica has six plus years of experience in information architecture and user research, including work with large businesses such as: NFL, Macy's, Herman Miller, National Safety Council, Thomson Reuters, Techstreet and Metro Hospital. Her project and activities range include: site reorganization and restructuring, content migration, e-commerce optimization, CMS customization and usability analysis Taxonomy creation and internet strategy instructor. Next on the team is Kris McNeil who is an information architect and content strategist. Drawing from his training in marketing and corporate communications, creative strategy and branding, Kris has been helping build businesses and organizations for the past 15 years. And he's provided strategy and design for companies such as: Herman Miller, Travelocity, Metro Health, American Concrete Institute and Winston Strawn, and the National Safety Council. And last but not least on our team that will be presenting today is Daniel Eizans who is an information architect and digital strategist with more than 10 years in digital environments for publishing, digital marketing, marketing advertising and site development. Dan has provided digital and content strategy services to: General Motors, Chevrolet, Ford Motor Company, Olympic Paint and Stain, Kaiser Permanente, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency, with project engagements with USAA. Dan's particularly skilled in assisting with enabling organizational change through process alignment, complicated content projects and assisting with defining content management system governance, workflows and data models. And with that, I'll pass our conversation along to Dan, who's going to describe a little bit in more in depth about information architecture. The Understanding Group's approach, and how that may be relevant to your businesses. Dan.
How TUG sees information architecture
Dan: Thank's a lot Bill. Hello everyone, thanks a lot for having me today. So, I'm going to start by just talking a little bit about what information, Bill, can you mute yourself really quick? Sorry guys, there we go. Note that you should not have echo now. So that should be good. My name, like Bill said, my name's Dan Eizans. And I'm gonna start by giving you just a quick overview of how TUG sees information architecture. So, if you're not familiar with what information architecture is, you might understand a little bit more about what we do if you think about architects who build for the built environment, or large scale buildings. Basically, what we do is we provide a vision and leadership for realizing a complex project. Our focus just happens to be in creating places online. The idea of place making is something that we at TUG hold incredibly important.
Space vs. place
So, let's go over a little bit about what that means for us. So, if you think about spaces, not all spaces that are created, like if you think about a storage shed or a garage, not all of those things are necessarily designed by architects. But, those places have an architecture. These spaces have a purpose. The reason that you would want to work with an architect, is really to build a place, not just build a space. And the difference between a place and a space really is giving something utility. Places are something that have intentions, they have people who are visiting them. They have structure that creates, insures a good fit between what you intend to have that space do and how people actually physically experience it. So, if we go to the next slide here, thanks Kris. Places where structure is meaningful, ensure a good fit between what our intentions are and how people experience it across context as well. So, if you look on this screen here, it's an example of the Herman Miller store, the way that people experience this place on an iPad is 150% different than the way they experience it in the actual Herman Miller Store. The place that we've created in the iPad space, a bit more visual, more of a laid back experience, versus the online store on the desktop version. Which is much more immediate shopper focused. So, why does all this start to really make sense? Because we need an architect online because places made of information is truly how we are living today. People are spending more than 37 hours per month online. And you don't need to look any further than Arab Spring to realize the power of online places and online spaces. People taking things like Facebook and Twitter and start entire revolutions around the places that we create online. But, there's a big difference, next slide. That so many places that we're making with information, they're not being architected. They're just being designed. And if you look at this example here, this is something that has been designed around the way that a showroom might look. It's been designed, and there's lots of different applications and things happening on it. But, you don't really get a sense of place here. So, at TUG, we're very, very focused on creating a sense of place online. And personas are a huge factor in the things that we create online because we get a better idea of the people that will inhabit those places and use those places in a more direct way. So, the story we want to start telling you guys today is that you're probably facing the same problems that everybody else is. That today you have to focus on more. More devices, there's a greater call for direct engagement with your customers. Even your employees in your online places. There's a call to create more content than ever before. We can't just get away with listing our address and our phone number and directions to our law firm. We're called upon to create engaging content that keeps people coming back, because that's how people are starting to perceive our brands today, by the content we create. We have to be more social. We have to do Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever next, great social app is coming up it seems now more than ever, people are asking us to do this. Oh, and by the way, that means a lot more work on the same budget that we've always existed on. Or you give all that stuff to an intern who might not necessarily be focused strategically on those tactics. So, what are some things that you guys might be facing? If we start to look at some, we're going to look at a couple of specific questions that we'll start to look at, in the personas that we're gonna take you guys through today.
Problems law firms encounter with their websites
So, what are some things that you guys' law firms might be facing? How do I find information and specialized opinions about rulings or cases specific to an industry, a location or a specific practice area? How can we publish and promote the research, specialties and expertise of our firm more effectively on our website and in other materials? How can we better engage with alums from our firm, who have moved on to different roles? And how can we attract the best new talent? Because we all know that we want to get the most useful people. These problems are typically solved with what we call lots of how. So, you might solve those, or answer those questions or solve those problems by starting an email marketing program. You might go ahead and try to redesign your website to make it look more attractive to everybody, and reorganize the way navigation works. You might start doing a lot of different social media posting to get some of that case information. Or find the young kids coming out of college online through social. Or, maybe you've been approached by somebody who has the next killer app that's gonna solve all of your problems with a download from the App Store. The problem is these are tactics, tactics and more tactics. And our biggest worry for those things, is that they're not aligned from a place of strategy. TUG's approach is really, really, we think is really different, and it sets us apart. The way we like to approach any new information architecture project is we start with a place of understanding from the business role. So, when we talk about understanding your business, what we're talking about in that sense, is starting with an audit of all of your existing content. So, we take a look at everything you do, in all the digital places. Then we start to look at how your business process maps to what, who you think your audience is. We do a lot of stakeholder interviews, where we get an idea of what your business goals are, versus what the user needs might be. And then we do comparative and competitive research. And then we align around that in a giant workshop. What we're going to be talking about the most today is understanding your audience. Understanding your audience on our end starts with user research. We often times will do user testing around specific pieces of your site. We'll review your analytics. We'll look at the journey that you want each of these different customers to have. And if you think back to the questions that we just went through that you guys might be facing, attracting new talent, that user journey is going to feel very different than somebody who's already familiar with your brand, who already knows who you are, and just needs to connect with you through an alumni login of some sort. And then, what we're talking about today is really personas. And then we take all that information from the business understanding process, the audience understanding process, and we start to do what we call facilitation of understanding. It's a set of specifications and artifacts that help inform, just like an architect would draw up blue prints for your company. We would give you a set of interaction methods, a set of blue prints to design an experience and design a place that is going to be most useful for all of the different types of problems and people that would tend to fall into your digital footprint, and your digital experience. So, that was a lot of fast talking, from my part, and you guys may have some questions here. So, I will quickly open it up to see if anybody has any specific questions around information architecture or specifically our approach to things. And if not, then we'll hand it over and get right into the personas. I'll open it up here.
George: Hey Dan, I'll kick it off, it's George.
George: I had a questions, just so everybody gets a better understanding of how do you interact with design firms and interactive agencies?
Dan: Sure. One thing that makes TUG a little bit different than I think a lot of other digital agencies and consultancies is we don't do any design. We are purely architects. So we interact very well with other agencies and partners. We take those insights that we learn from the business and all the great data that we're able to grab from user research and then we create those devlierables, those specifications. Everything from wire frames to interaction patterns to information in the actual personas themselves, and we will hand those off to a creative agency or a design shop or even the client themselves, if they're choosing to do it in-house. And we will make sure that we do a workshop, or some sort of facilitation around it, so that they have the same level of understanding that we've had throughout the research process. So what they actually get is a set of instructions on how to actually go out and build the space. The architect, in the real world, isn't going to be the one building the building. And we don't treat it any differently in building digital places.
George: Great, that's perfect. I don't see any questions on my end, so feel free to plow ahead.
Dan: Great, well then, in that case, I will go ahead and hand the ball over to, I think Jessie's next, right? Great.
Jessie: That's correct. Can you hear me okay?
Dan: You're good Jessie.
What are user personas?
Jessie: Oh, great, perfect. So, thanks Dan, thanks so much for that explanation. What I'd like to do is explain a little bit about what personas are, why we use them and how we go about constructing them and doing the research that goes into them. And then after I've explained kind of a high-level view of what personas are, then Kris is gonna go through and introduce some of our more specific personas that we've done in the past that happen to be relevant to a law firm environment. So, what personas are. Personas are an artifact that we use as a amalgamation of all of the research that we've done around user research. That are fact-based, targeted and very intentional. A big reason that we use this is because when we're working as a team in the collaborative environment, like George and Dan were just talking about, very easy for personal opinion and our own domain expertise to leak into creating these digital places and skew a project. And what these help us do is they help us keep a focus on who are the people that we're actually trying to reach and serve. So, it gives us a common goal to drive some of our decisions, and then also fact-check our work once we've created the personas. So, I think a kind of humorous way that we talk about personas is calling them Franken-people, because they are derived from non-fictional, very intentionally strategic research. We take little bits from all sorts of different people to make a cohesive representation of a typical user. It's a person, kind of symbol, that we use to make decisions. They represent a target audience. The way we talk about it is around the idea of an 80/20 coverage. So, we're gonna cover probably about 80% of the use case of folks that will be coming to a particular digital environment. And we assume that if we meet the needs of the people that are represented in our research, that primarily most folks will have their needs met. It's important to reiterate that personas don't cover every single use case. But, we do feel that by leveraging personas to inform the information architecture and the content strategy, that it will be very what we would call user-centered. So, let's talk a little bit about how we go about framing the research. We do, primarily do user interviews. And the number of user interviews will be determined by the scope of the project, the nature of the constraints of the clients that we're working with. And it's different for every, single project. This is an example of 16 interviews we did for. I'm sorry, I correct myself, 15 interviews we did for a law firm. And as you can see, we talked to partners, associates and clients. And as a result of this research, we came up with five personas that mapped directly to the particular research we did. So, when we are framing our research, the way we think about it is to, we really go through kind of a scientific method, where we develop some hypothesis. We create a research plan. We recruit very specifically. We interview the users. And then analyze the information. This, what you're looking at right here is a map of how we start to derive patterns and trends within the research that we did to frame our persona creation based on data. So, in addition to the user research that we do, the interviews, we'll also take into consideration user testing, analytics, site search analytics, if there's any customer service log or, serving focus groups marketing material. That also will inform the way that we create our personas. As we continue on this slide, we do map our personas to relate to the information that we picked up. So, right here you can see, specialized practice to general practice on the continuum. Location important to location indifferent, meaning this is the wide range of folks that for this particular law firm, we needed to make sure that we got ample coverage in all of these quadrants. Again, the way that we frame these will be very business and organization specific. I don't think we've ever used two of the same axes for any of our clients.
Once we've gotten through and done our research, and created a framework for how we want to make sure we get complete coverage for a particular ecosystem, so we really know what type of place we want to be making. We come up with personas and then their additional scenarios. And we present this in a high level, kind of rough, this would be considered a rough draft. Where we say, here are the five people that we think we're trying to get, and here are the three or four or five ways that we could see them interacting with a site. So the personas represent who is the person and the scenarios represent how does the person interact with the brand. And this is really great for us to kind of come together, and get consensus that we've had the right kind of research and that we're creating the right kind of people. And the question that I always ask clients when we're presenting these is, Do you know these people? And we're always surprised by how much these people are people we know. So, I think what we're gonna do now to kind of dig a little bit deeper, and show you exactly the kinds of information we have in these completed personas and scenarios, is walk you through an example that'll give you an idea of the kind of robust depth of information that you see in our kinds of personas. Kris?
Kris: Hello, so, I'm gonna spend some time, can you hear me?
Examples of personas
Kris: Okay. I'm gonna spend some time introducing you to a few of these personas. I'm first gonna run through how that segmentation broke down, in the specific case. So, as we meet these people, they should seem familiar to many of you who work in this industry. And I think, one of the ways we Sorry, I'm having difficulty here. There we go. So, one of the ways that we would look at or approach these specific users after we went through the interviews was to identify these segments. And by these segments, we ended up with a couple of different partners. So, we have Erica who is a partner. We have Marco who is a partner. And these two both are representing different aspects of how the partners might view the website and what its purpose is internally, to the law firm. We also have Wesley who's an applying associate. And then we have a couple of what we would call like a high value or high priority persona. Personas that have been created. Michael, who's corporate counsel, who also is an alum, but also a client. And Robin, who we're gonna focus in on today. We're gonna spend a little bit of time getting to know her. But, she's chief legal officer for a firm. And every persona has these scenarios. What we do is we try to illustrate, within that coverage area that Jessica was talking about, we're trying to make sure the we are covering off on the key ways that people will interact with either a digital project, or the website or whatever the personas are being created for. So she has three specific scenarios. And her first one is around finding key information. So, as we get to know her better, we'll find out some things around her background, but she's looking for some key information around a case that she thinks might impact her role or her industry. Another scenario for Robin is actually doing some research for finding a firm with specialization in that space. So, she's looking to find out whether there's a specific attorney or firm that has, really can meet her specific needs as it relates to her role in industry. And another area is she gets a lot of feeds, she is constantly being inundated, like many of us, with information and so she's trying to find a way to tailor her content, or find relevant updates and information that relates to her role in industry from an authoritative legal resource. So, I'd like to talk a little bit about what the anatomy of these personas are. So, now that we've kind of high level met Robin, I'd like to walk through what are the various ways that we can take this user research and pull it together into these amalgamated Franken-people, who have high value and represent some key people that we're going after, or that the law firm would be going after as target audience. So, every one of 'em, you'll notice, has a photo. And these photos are selected to give the persona an identity. We love the idea of people identifying with these fictitious people as real people. And really internalizing them within their organization as such. So, we definitely start out with the picture. But, we get into some basic things around demographic information, work life, home life, income, things that way. But, also there's this summary of who she is. You know, who is Robin? She is a customer, but more importantly, her single focus is we need to find the best law partner who understands our industry. And at the end of the day, you'll find that her demographic information and her motivation and everything, and even her scenarios, are sort of tied up in this specific quote. The other area that we look at is around the commitment to the law firm. Existing commitment. We have these indicators that sort of show a range of how Robin's connected to this project, or how she would be. How digitally savvy she is. Her overall experience with the firm to date, but also maybe frequency of use for the website. Now, again, this was tailored around this specific client. And often times, these will vary from client to client, or from project to project for us. So, we like to ensure that these levers are ways to view how a persona is gonna interact with content, engage with the website. Another area of how we learn about Robin is we get some of her basic information. So, what's her background? What's her personality like? What are some of her motivators? Does she have any specific outlook on things, or limitations or fears? This is sort of her background that sort of captures who she is in a nutshell. And again, all this information, and you'll probably hear this over and over again, but all this information is derived from this user research that we've done. So, in many cases, this information that we have here about Robin is not something that we've come up with ourselves. We've literally stitched it together from quotes of the people that we've talked to. Real-life scenario quotes of how they might relate to the firm, or what their background typically is. And then another key aspect to the persona is around the relationship to the firm. And then, more specifically, around this digital life and daily technology diet. So, some of the things that we learn about Robin, and what we heard through a lot of the user interviews, is that she is really savvy technologically. She maintains hardware and devices around both work and personal use. There's a wide range of devices that are being supported. She consumes media on a wide range of screen sizes. So this is a huge consideration. Again, derived from actual things that we've heard. But this is a huge consideration in how we begin to, or would begin to make decisions around how we would best engage her. Now, I mentioned scenarios. And those scenarios, we've done three in this case. It could vary, again, from project to project. But, in this case, every persona has three. And these are Robin's three scenarios. What we tried to do is paint an overall journey of what the process begins to look like for this persona through these scenarios. In this particular case, we're trying to show how Robin is interacting both on the web, and even how she might be interacting on the law firm website. And, so each scenario is broken down into those two areas. And also mapped against some of these key motivators. So, some of the motivators that we derived were, from our user research in this case, were things around is it about process and workflow? Is it about the social/relational component? Is it more a content or research activity? Or is it about finding people in locations? And you'll see that the colors are actually corresponding to the various ways in which Robin is connecting to both the website as well as interacting with other things online. So altogether, we have this overview of Robin, and then we have these three scenarios.
Anatomy of different persona scenarios
I'm gonna spend a little bit of time now getting into the anatomy of these scenarios, and what each scenario typically consists of. In order to help you understand the richness and depth that we capture in them. And so these scenarios are rich stories. They detail a users potential experience with an existing system. So, these scenarios are things, again, that we've heard of in the research. They're ways people are interacting with an existing site. And in an effort to capture this, we use this to begin to shape our thinking around how the new world might begin to look. And so these detailed, or these customer journeys may be highly detailed in areas, again stitched together from the various folks and the stuff that we've heard of the real use case. And they touch on multiple aspects and features of you know, product and brand experience. And sometimes they're entirely digital. And sometimes they may just address a customer's perspective from, like a cross-channel vantage point, or from a other aspects that may not be digital. And so, in this particular case, we have a bunch of language and information around this scenario, finding key information. We get to understand Robin a bit as a person. And how her daily life is structured around this scenario. Then, we start to bring that into a more meaningful view, which is a singular goal that Robin may have around the scenario, but more importantly, things like questions and pain points. So, every user, as they're experiencing things, they end up with a series of questions or they articulate pain points, or things that may or may not be easy or effective, or may be difficult, as they experience these particular scenarios. Another area that we focused in on is those motivators again. And so, we saw those motivators in the overall journey, but what we do is we break those down again by each scenario. So, on a scenario by scenario basis, we're sort of weighing those in the in this particular context, how is Robin how much of this scenario reflects content or research? Well, it's quite a bit. And what's the weight of that? What are some of her motivational intent as she approaches this scenario? So these scenarios conclude with these pain points. We begin to point at the suggestions to help improve the user experience, that are centered on the user. And they end up informing some of the strategic and structural design decisions that are made by an information architect, or a designer, whomever is gonna be building the next stage of this project. And so again, they're not necessarily design decisions, but they're ways to point to actual user research, and begin to pivot into the new world from the existing world. And start to point to these recommendations around things like information architecture and structural design, as well as simply content strategy. So, to reiterate again, these peronas are made up of all these real bits and pieces of user research. We pull 'em together to form this amalgamated person who represents a target audience. So, that is how we end up creating 'em. And that is the anatomy and structure of what a persona actually contains and how the scenarios are broken out. There are a few limitations around personas though. The one area is you know we may not get coverage of every single user. You know, research can only go so far, and what we're trying to do is get the right research, and pull it together so that we're identifying and targeting the right users. They may not take into consideration things like business constraints, or technical concerns. They're really just giving us insight into user journeys. And so it's a heavily user focused deliverable. And while they're an important part to the product design and architecture, they shouldn't replace, or stand in for, other key areas of research during product development cycle. We may suggest, you know, structural design or strategy ideas in these personas. But, they've not yet necessarily been vetted within the entire project ecosystem. So, there's a few limitations, but what they do is provide very helpful guideposts in how you might begin to make those decisions. And so I'm gonna take a minute, and we'll pause for some questions around this. I know we went through a bunch here. And then we'll be transitioning into how personas begin to benefit some of these key areas.
George: Thanks. As for right now, there's nothing on my end. So we can just keep plowing forward.
Dan: Okay, great. Alright guys, so we will go ahead and talk a little bit about, this is Dan Eizans again. So, I'm back. Didn't get to get rid of me so quickly. I'm gonna come back here and talk a little bit about a bit about how information architecture is benefited by the persona process. So, Kris and Jessie did a really great job of kind of walking you through everything. And what you're seeing on your screen right now, is our personas mapped against a website type map. We talked a lot about how personas each have their own behavioral needs, and they have pain points and triggers, and for a lot of the way that we do personas, we get specific pathing for how they would want to experience the place. Because we talked about information architecture being the creation of a place, and the creation of a useful place for people. So, this kind of screwy view here, which is probably really hard to read, blown up, we actually start to see how personas might actually move through a site map here. So, their images are kind of placed onto these long documents that we created, so we get a better sense of how, which pieces of the site are going to be most important to which persona. Which content pieces are going to be most important to which persona. And then we get a much better idea of how they would move throughout an experience and use the place that we're creating through information architecture. So, architectures that are true to what a business needs and how people are are really the end result of information architecture, powered by really strong personas. And this is the site that corresponds with these personas here that I was just showing you. Which is the American Concrete Institute. So, the real important thing that starts to pay off here is that we basically, personas allow us to have a strategy and structure for what business needs, and how people actually are in the real world. So, we're not just basing something on who we think somebody is, or what we think somebody does. We're basing it all on the most important things, which would help inform a better place that we create, and a better information architecture. The next thing I want to discuss is kind of near and dear to my heart, and I know Mr. McNeil's heart as well, is how do personas inform content strategy?
George: Hey Dan.
George: Hey, I actually have a question for you.
George: As you're going through those user flows, you're probably making a lot of decisions on how you're prioritizing which persona. Is that a true statement? And then how do you sort of reconcile between all these different competing interests, I guess?
Dan: Yep, so if you think back to when Jessie was describing the axes that we go by. The two, you know, the X and the Y axes, we know that is our best guess, and our best hypothesis, on how to create a site that's gonna be useful for everybody. So, we try and create personas that fall into each of those extremes. Or closest as we can, to the nearby sections of those axes, and then that really begins to be, once we get to the pain points, and the specific user needs of all those people, we create the site experience that meets that 80/20 rule. So, we want to try and create an experience that is most useful for the biggest majority of folks. So, what the persona starts to do is these could be points of entry, that could then influence like how you go after them through an email marketing campaign. So, you might spit 'em into a different place on the website than you would somewhere else. Or you would have a different process flow, or a different contact form for different types of personas, that would start to fall out of it. That's one example of how you might do it. But, all of the personas are taken into account when we do an information architecture project though. So we wanna make sure that whatever place we're going to create, whatever blue prints we're going to draw up for that architecture, is going to meet everyone's needs. And when we lay these folks out onto a site map like this, it's just showing us these are places where we wanna start to think about putting content. These are places where we wanna start thinking about adding ways to move this person through the scenario, through the site, because those are the parts of the site that are gonna be most important to them. So, if you think all the way back to the beginning of the webinar, when we talked about where would an alumni member go? What's the easiest way to get them to that part of the site, as quickly as they can, and avoid the other stuff that they don't need. That might be one way you'd start to see a persona laid out on a site map like this. Did that answer your question?
Jessie: Hey Dan? Can I jump in with something too?
Trends across personas
Jessie: This is Jessie. The other thing that we've found too, is that when we're going through and we start to understand the totality of the constituents that would be using this website, one of the ways that we prioritized in the past, when we're working with a client that maybe has some constraints, is that we start to see trends across personas. And we realize that, you know, if we make all of the changes that will meet the needs of person A, we're also gonna be helping out person B and C. We don't help person D that much, but they're not nearly as important to our core business strategy right now. And those are nice to have. But, by understanding the commonalities, and how some of the suggestions could impact the positive interface of different personas, we start to prioritize that way too.
Dan: That's a great point Jess.
George: That's great guys. Thank you.
How information architecture informs content strategy
Dan: No problem. So, we'll hop back forward. So, that's kind of the IA approach. So, let's talk about how it informs content strategy. If IA is the structure, and building of the house, or building of your place, so to speak, content strategy is really what starts to populate it with the usable things inside. Some people talk about it as being like the furniture. So, content strategy in our eyes plans for the creation, delivery and governance of content that is useful for humans and machines. And where the personas really come into play there, is it helps us to provide the content that we're creating with a real purpose. And that purpose comes in how we analyze content, how we create it, how we manage it over time, and even how we publish it out to the people who are going to use it. So, if you think about how that influences creation, it assist in that creation process by giving every new piece of content an actual goal. So, it's no more guess work anymore, because we have scenarios that are going to apply to some folks, And we have data around people that we understand, these are the types of things that we need to influence and are going to allow these people to make decisions around our brand. They're the guide to determine whether content is appropriate, whether it's actionable, you know, what kind of call to action are you starting to put into that content or that email, newsletter, or that social media post? And are we producing it in a way that each of our personas can understand? Because as brands, and as organizations, a lot of times what tends to happen as we build things online, is we show our corporate underpants, for lack of a better term. Because we talk about things in our own language that might not necessarily match how a user would talk about things. And personas are that great lens, as Jessie was saying. Personas help us to let go of our bias, and help us create better content. They also help us deliver content in a better way. They assist in the delivery process by giving us a specific audience behavior to accommodate to. And it also gives us a better insight of what types of things do they do best? Is it better to deliver something different to a mobile audience or deliver something to a social network, that you wouldn't necessarily have on your website? We understand how to do a better cross-channel content strategy when we have personas. Because we have better delivery insights into how they interact with things, with devices they use, and what media might work for them best. And in the example here, this is, you know a past life for me, working with the Center for Disease Control. If you go to CDC's social site, it's a very different tone that they take with their users in social spaces. Because people are looking up facts and statistics. And they've even gone so far as to talk about what would be the perfect bunker to build against in the zombie apocalypse? But, if you go to their actual website, it's more like a reference library. And literally, the way we did the navigation around it was A through Z to look up specific illnesses and other things that the CDC has. So, it's a totally different content strategy, totally different delivery mechanism, that's important by personas. And finally, personas really help with the governance of things. And we have a picture of a nicely pretty and beautifully tended garden here because that's really what can happen to a content management system if you're not organizing content in the right way. Personas assist with that process by giving us success measures to think about, standards for adjusting content or producing new content. And then even, how we think about labeling our site from the navigation standpoint, to the voice and tone, to the reading level that we're writing at or producing a video at. All those types of things relate to insights that we can gain from personas and research. And I just sort of started to mention this one. This is an example of voice and tone. How academic do you need to be? Do you need to modify the voice for one? Or do you need to modify tone from one persona to the next? How does that start to impact the marketing campaigns that you're producing, the emails that you're sending out, to alumni versus potential new associates and that sort of thing? Those personas will give you a kind of unwritten instruction book to start to address things by. And where you really start to see success in this process, and is the case with our friends at the National Safety Council, and Jessie mentioned it too. These people become real people that you start to talk about, even though they're Franken-people from research, you should ask yourself, when you go to produce a new piece of content, is that the right piece of content for Robin? Or is that the right piece of content, and written in a way that Kenneth would understand?
How personas and information architecture inform other parts of your organization
So, what happens when you have strong personas and good IA, is that strategy starts to become visible. When you start to draw the structure to execute the strategies. So, when you have a better idea of what you want to achieve as a business, you have a deep understanding of who your personas are, you can start to physically draw things out to execute against the strategy. So, it's no more killer app. It's no more website redesign to solve the problem. It really becomes something that's actionable, and something that you're gonna really build a strategy around. And real quickly, 'cause I know we're kinda coming up toward the end of our time. I wanna talk about what we see as other additional benefits of personas. So, beyond content strategy and beyond IA, personas can really help with a lot of other areas. And they're definitely, if you're thinking about doing this as a project in your organization, this is a great way to sell it to your upper management, or your decision makers, if you're yourself an influencer. Branding and advertising. Once you have deep insights into behaviors and preferences of people, and preferences of folks who could be potentially consuming your brand, those personas can then be handed off to your ad agency. And said, this was deeply researched, these are the real people that we need to be talking to. We need to start doing some branding and advertising that resonates with them. So, those people can be talked about in that sense. User experience design. Which, there it goes. User experience design. That hits on everything from what types of prototypes you build to what types of analysis that you can conduct, to the actual visual design language of your firm. And that's a major influencer into information architecture as well. Which is why personas are kind of the bedrock of not only IA, but user experience design. To really understand what journeys need to be in place. How casual or how formal something needs to feel. Those personas can help with all that type of design language. Another thing that they can definitely help is digital marketing strategy and cross channel content strategy, as we kind of mentioned. So, these things don't just have to influence the digital world. And in fact, the more that we do personas, and the more companies we tend to work with, the more that we're finding it starts to influence things like their event space. So, the National Safety Council is looking at their personas and figuring out, do we need to speak differently on our signage at our Expo? How do we start to address things in print? All those things can have insights that lead much further than just your website. So, in impacts everything from search, to the inbound marketing, to your development, to your paid search. These personas can be a boon to so much more. And then, another one that's kind of a no brainer, is search. Once you understand the language, and the way that people talk about your brand, you know what keywords to buy. You also know what kinds of things that you can be stuffing into your own content, so that you're indexed in a better fashion. And then finally, public relations. That's another thing companies love to do, is kind of use their jargony information when they're talking about things in the PR space. Why not use language in a way that your folks really expect to hear it, and share that same take with the news media, and as you're out there trying to sell your wares. It becomes very, very important, and a great insight into public relations. Well, that's kind of it for our program. And basically what we wanna leave you with, more than anything else, and I think these last couple of slides really show the additional value, we want to reiterate that personas are this extremely valuable tool to build consistency in all of your marketing and communications efforts. And across channels, no matter which channel that you're starting to think about publishing in. When you start with insights, and you start with a place of understanding the why, what and who, before you start talking about something else like another how, you really have a recipe for success. And a bedrock for making more clear, more strategically focused and hopefully measurable decisions in everything that you do. So, we'd really like to thank you guys, for joining as part of the webinar today. We will open it up for any additional questions that we can. If you want to learn more about TUG. We are at understandinggroup.com You can follow us on Twitter at that weird spelling of understanding. And we're also on Facebook and LinkedIn, and your more than welcome to follow us along as well. And we've really enjoyed the chance to present to your today, and we'll open it up for any additional questions.
George: Thank you Dan. That was an excellent presentation. I'm sure, well appreciated by the audience here. And how very strategic this can be beyond, like you said, the website. You know, this could be something that sort of permeates the organization, at least the marketing department, in terms of thinking about how you create content, the type of content and you know, even the language that you use. So, wanted to thank you again. I'm gonna give it probably another 30 seconds or so, see if we've got any questions. And if not, we'll wrap it up. The webinar will be on our website, probably in the next 24 or 48 hours, in case anybody missed it, or wanted to share it with a colleague. So, thanks again, we'll give it 30 seconds, and we'll come back then. Thank you.
We're actually not gonna let Jaron off the hook here. We wanted to make a little bit of a connection to what you folks all do, 'cause we're in the content management business, and very often are dealing with, and have dealt with IA and information architecture in the past, and personas. So, Jeran, give everybody a sense for how this might translate to the work we do. And in particular, you know, maybe you can use an innovation that we've brought to the legal space, like how we've customized search and made something that's pretty simple, very strategic on the back end.
Jaron: Well, that's a great question George. And thank you The Understanding Group for joining us today. I think that, you know, any of our clients that have worked with us before, and worked with me, they know that one of the first questions that I ask is "Who's your audience?" And personas is obviously a way to answer that question in a very accurate and well thought-out, structured and most importantly, well researched way. And that's really what The Understanding Group brings to the table and the approach that they shared today. And that's so critical in what you're, in how you're defining your audience. Because I think that there is that. You know, everyone thinks that they know who their audience is, and that's good enough for certain cases. But, at a certain point, you need to really dig deeper and find out. We've had some really interesting experiences with RubyLaw, like you were asking about search, George.
Jaron: You know, once a persona is defined, you know, it's interesting, I mean, most firms, most marketing departments of law firms, know that their audience is as much internal as it is external. But, that's not obvious for a lot of the people outside of legal. And so, I know that early on, that was a lesson we learned with one of the first or second firms that we worked with in legal. And you know, that persona, that yeah, there's that partner who internally is rushing out to make a presentation, and needs to be able to do a search online to find the latest new for a particular topic, particular industry, that sort of thing. That's a particular use case, but that persona of that partner who needed information about his or her own firm right away, is a way that we can start thinking about, how should that search work? What should those options be? You know, often times, there are specific user experience aspects of a search that we'll build based on the persona of that internal user. As much as, you know, search is gonna be used by external visitors learning to, looking to learn more about the firm, and a match. But, you know along those lines, that actually, I'd actually like to ask TUG a question related to that which is, what is. You know that was our own experience years ago when we first started working in legal. What, do you have an example of an experience you had where you know, you started to do the research in the personas and you found an audience, a type of audience, an audience member that you just completely didn't expect. And either blew you, or more importantly, the client's expectations away. Is there an example of something like that you can share with the audience today?
Jessie: I'm actually happy to speak to that, if, Dan and Kris, is it okay if I speak about ASAPS?
Jessie: Okay, great. So, I was working for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and they had a perception in their head that plastic surgery was primarily for women. And they know it was changing in terms of socio-economic and cultural background. But what they didn't really realize, until we started digging in and doing some research is that there was an absolute, a huge opportunity in men. In terms of them warming up to the idea of pursuing aesthetic surgeries. And in creating our personas and doing our research, we came up with just an enormous amount of black holes in their existing information architecture and content strategy space. And what we were able to do was to create an information architecture, content strategy and content road map, that accommodated this new, quite large opportunity space for them.
George: That's a great example. Thank you for that.
George: So, we don't show any more questions. So, I think we're gonna wrap it up. But, thanks again, The Understanding Group, and everybody for joining today.
Dan: Thanks so much for having us.
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