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Essential Tools For Planning Your Website: Part 1 - Personas

Everyone wants their new website to be a success. Like building a house, the key to your website’s success starts in the planning. There are often lots of ideas and requirements to combine to make a website successful. By planning it out in detail you can save yourself a headache and lots of wasted time and expense later on.

We have put together 5 essential tools to help you plan out your website. We recommend going through each step as each one informs the next. When you’ve finished, you’ll have a great foundation, ready to move forward with your website’s design and build.

The first tool we'll look at are personas, with customer journey, site map, wire frames, and style tiles to follow.


Simple text personas

Simple text personas

A great first step when planning your new website is to think about who you are building it for. As the site owner, it is easy to forget the purpose of your website and end up building it for yourself. An easy way to prevent this is to start your website planning process with your ideal user in mind. And this is where personas come in.

Personas are a representation of the major user groups of your website. They include details about the users including their background and values. Consider problems that your users face, their needs and expectations. This will highlight features for your website that could solve these problems.

Ideally, personas should be based on information from user research and web analytics. Include things like age, gender, education level, profession, location, language, hobbies and values. Think about why they are using your website, what problems they face and what they expect to see or happen. This will highlight ways that your website can solve their problems.

Ex Persona Clark2

Typical visual persona
Credit: Xtensio

So, why create a persona? Well, if you haven’t worked out the value already, personas allow the whole team to sing from the same hymn sheet. Site owners and other stakeholders can evaluate new features. Do they benefit the site's users? Personas will inform the later stages in your website planning process. They also help other team members to design with the user in mind, write content in the correct tone, and promote your site in the right places. We have seen many styles of personas, from a simple paragraph of text, to visuals with representational photos of the end user. While the latter looks great, as long as the persona is useful it can be as simple as you like.

Creating Personas


Very creative personas
Credit: MailChimp

  • Conduct your research and analyse it. Look for themes and characteristics that answer who your users are. Why are they using your website? What behaviours, assumptions and expectations do they have about your website?
  • Create persona groups. These will start to represent the end users of your website
  • Combine and develop the groups to get roughly 3-5 basic personas. If necessary, rank them into primary users, secondary users, etc.
  • Develop these basic personas into more realistic users. Fill in details about their background, values, motivations and expectations. Keep the information brief and relevant
  • Don’t forget to give your persona a name

What You’ll Need

  • User research and web analytics
  • Pens, paper, post-it notes and a wall or board
  • A team of stakeholders
  • A document of the final personas

Next Up

The next tool we'll look at for planning your website is the customer journey. We'll make use of the personas when developing the customer journey, so make sure you have them ready.

Laura profile

Laura as the creative in A Digital specialises in design and accessibility. She also gets involved with front-end coding, particularly HTML and CSS, with a growing interest in Javascript.

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