Who do you think you are?

Paul Boag

You may have the ultimate picture of who your users are, but can you say the same thing about your organisation?

When you last redesigned your website, did you create user personas? The chances are you did. User personas have become a massively popular way to better understand your users. But, what about understanding yourself? What about understanding your business?

Aaron Walters produced a great post about understanding your own site’s personality for Smashing Magazine. Among other things he wrote:

Personas show us only half of what we need to see. Truly effective communication is bidirectional. We now know who “they” are, but who are we? If we share a bit of ourselves in our design, we cannot only gain the trust of our audience, but also inspire impassioned users.

Knowing yourself is so important for creating an engaging website. It can often be the key to success. As Aaron writes:

  • In a crowded market, personality helps distinguish you from competitors.
  • Personality elicits an emotional response from the audience that encourages long-term memory of your brand.
  • Personality attracts those who get you and deters those who don’t.
  • Personality impassions users, who will become your most powerful marketing channel.

So do you really understand who your organisation is?

In one of my own posts on the subject I wrote:

One of the first questions I ask new clients is “if your organisation was a famous person, who would it be?” This single question is far more useful and stimulates far more conversation than even the most detailed brand guidelines.

This is a sentiment echoed by Aaron in his post:

Think about it: if your website were a person, who would it be? Would the person be a serious, buttoned-up, all-business type, yet trustworthy and capable? Or a wisecracking buddy who makes mundane tasks fun?

Not that injecting real personality into your website is without risk as Aaron points out:

I’ll be honest: there is some risk in designing with personality. Not everyone will like the result. But if you design to please everyone, you will please no one.

I couldn’t agree with this more. In fact probably the single most quoted thing I have ever said is:

Offend nobody, design for somebody.

Of course our design shouldn’t be offensive, but it should be aimed at somebody. Otherwise you end up with an insipid design that nobody loves.

The real trick is working out how to take that personality and express it through your site. However, I will let Aaron address that in the rest of his post.

Read Aaron’s post on personality

Box Man drawing a face from Bigstock.com