But what many of us do have is user personas. If you are not familiar with personas then a quick Google search should get you up to speed. But basically, personas are a way to identify and group similar users with similar traits that are relevant to your site. For example “Frank is a small business owner. He is computer savvy and likes to do things himself. Frank likes control and options.”
Creating a different user experience based on these personas seems very do-able for most sites, but usually will require the creation of a lot of new content to fill in all the gaps for each user type.
The Problem that Can’t be Solved with Content
Here is the main problem I see with many persona-based content strategies:
How do you get people to accurately self-select themselves into a persona type?
The usual solution is to get them to register, and enter enough information so that the system can make a good decision. If all your personas are comprised of people with only positive personality traits, then this may work. But most persona groups are not like that.
Almost every persona group has at least one user that is something like this: “Gary is a technophobe who still likes his VHS tapes. He avoids risk, avoids change, and does not like investigating new and innovative features.”
What kinds of questions can you possibly ask during the registration process that would get someone to place themselves into that group? Few people want to willingly associate themselves with these kinds of negative personality traits.
Personas are great for use during design so that you make sure that a design can accommodate all kinds of users, but they may have limited ability to drive a content strategy for the creation of a “persona-ized” user experience.
If you are working content strategy for a project where different content is planned on being served to users based on user type, be sure to figure out exactly how you are going to automatically place each user into one of these groups before you get too far into development. Don’t let the designers and programmers assume that somehow the writers will magically solve this problem with clever content. Address it up front.