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Why it's important to use visitor profiles before, and after, you get a website

Knowing who will visit a website, before you build it, can have a serious positive impact on the success and overall ROI. By designing the site with specific people in mind, you can make sure their experience is the best it can be.

When turning their attention to a new website, most people start with how they want it to look. During that process it’sç likely you’ll ask the question “what do my customers want?”

Visitors profiles are a way to formalise that process and ensure you (and your visitors) get the most benefit from the site.

Why should you develop visitor profiles?

Visitor profiles allow a better user experience. A better user experience on your website will lead to better conversions and better customer service.

Regardless of if you’re B2B or B2C, your customers are the most important element of your business. Your staff, your processes and your product or service only exist because you have customers. As Tony Hsieh, founder of internet shoe firm Zappos, puts it “Customer service should not be a department. It should be the entire company.”

Part of that customer focus should be listening to what they want from a website experience and then building something that is part of a user-centred design (UCD).

Where to start with building visitor profiles.

The first key point is to look at data, rather than what you think customers want. Start with what you know about your customers and visitors and then build on that with marketing data. How old are they? What’s their family situation? Their personal and business interests? Do they make purchases online or offline?

A typical, albeit basic, example looks like this :

Rob is a 30-year-old chef. He works long hours and spends as much time as he can with his young family. His time is precious so he uses the internet as a time saver for research and purchases.

Just this is enough to start making some useful design decisions about a website that Rob will find useful. The homepage needs to be simple and the site needs to have clear, quick, navigation to what Rob is looking for.

Also consider writing a “user story”. This is a short snippet of text that tells, from the visitors perspective, what their ideal experience looks like. Using Rob, above, as an example.

I’ve just shut the kitchen for the night and need some supplies for later in the week. I log on to the site and with one click I’m into the ordering section. The items I need are easy to find via a search console with clever filters for all the different makes and models of equipment.

I’m able to add the items to my basket and then make some quick comparisons with other items on the site to make sure I’m happy with my purchases. Ordering only takes a few seconds with my saved details from last time.

I get quick confirmation of acceptance and dispatch and then regular updates on my delivery schedule. After delivery I get a call to check everything is as I expected.

Finding out if you got the profiles correct

After the site is built and live, you’ll start getting real-world data. Using various analytics systems, like Googles’ own offering, means you can tell a great deal about who is visiting and, crucially, how they are interacting with your site. Here is where you need to revise your profiles and pivot the site design if you got it wrong. Proactive web developers will always work with you after site launch to make sure this part of the process is on point.

Equally important is to ask for, and listen to, visitor feedback. What did visitors like about your site? What was easy (or hard)? Will they come back? Why / why not?

While visitor profiles add a layer of complexity to website planning, they can make a real difference to the success levels of your site. I’m always happy to explore questions like these when developing a site so be sure to get in touch if you’re interested in this side of website design.