Sunday, September 25, 2016

Create Personas for the Perfect Web Copy

When going on the journey towards creating a new website, effective personas help you focus your user experience and content strategy — but they can also help you develop copy specifically for the way your audience reads online.

Web readers aren’t the same as print readers. Most users are more concerned with locating specific info than reading every word that you have to say (sorry). But even with that in mind, when developing your content strategy, it doesn’t pay to forget the outliers who actually might benefit from long-form content.

It all depends on your audience. Consider including the kinds of content that not only speak to your audience, but mimics the way they want to find, sort and digest content.

Top Three Web Reader Personas

Intimately Involved: Finds the info they want, and reads every line. Pores over a website to find the most complete information, and doesn’t mind taking the time to do so.

Scan First, Read Later: Is satisfied with a quick scan of the site to learn who you are and what you do. Chooses select pages to read in full that capture their interest, or may bookmark to read later.

Get Me Out of Here: Task oriented. Doesn’t have time (or interest) to learn everything you have to say. Is looking for specific information, and will settle on a good enough answer instead of the best if that means saving time.

So which persona fits your audience? It depends on why people visit your site.

A Closer Look at Personas in Action

If you’re in the hospital industry, like University of Minnesota Health, your audience is looking to you as a trusted resource, and may be anxious about upcoming appointments or treatments. Your audience is Intimately Involved in your content, and combined with a strong content strategy, your web copy can support the comprehensive information they’re looking for.

To help people feel at ease, MHealth includes this long-form content like condition information, and detailed pages explaining exactly what to expect if they’re a new patient or visitor.

That’s not always the case if you’re selling people on a highly specific service, like Airbnb. These visitors are more likely to scan first to see if the service is worth all the hype, then pick and choose a few places where they want more information once they’ve bought in. These Scan First, Read Later types don’t want a ton of heavy copy up front, but don’t mind long-form (like article content) somewhere deeper in the site. Airbnb does a nice job of balancing the copy throughout the site: bite-sized content early on, then select areas where people can dive in for more detailed info.

And then there are the disruptors, like the modern bank Simple. They’re trying to convince a young, mobile-first audience to switch to a branch-free bank, and they’re not doing it with huge swathes of copy. Instead it’s tightly controlled and mixed up with icons and images to attract an audience with a short attention span. For the Get Me Out of Here user, the limited amount of copy actually does a better job selling them on the product than long-form — they can always get the best answer, at a glance.

Don’t Consider Copy Last — That’s Why Your Audience Is Here

There’s never a better time to reevaluate your copywriting strategy than when creating a new site. Selecting the right content for your audience, and developing the copy to support it, is part of your larger content strategy. And during a site redesign, you want to bring in your content team early, so that the beautiful new design is created with your strategy in mind.

So which persona fits your audience? Think about why people visit the site, and whether they would be receptive to bite-sized content, long-form or a hybrid of both. In case of doubt, default to less is more. But by considering personas and your audience’s needs first, your new site can make the most of how they read online for a modern, thoughtful experience.