Is an online persona the same as personality?

PersonasMarketing experts suggest we create “online personas” to represent all the different kind of people who might visit our websites. The argument is, that by creating these cameo portraits of different kinds of visitors we can deliver web experiences specifically suited to each kind of person.

That’s a good idea. People spend only a few seconds on each web page; if it doesn’t “click” with them, they click away.

For example, imagine you run a hotel. Your hotel can offer accommodation, meals, business meetings and conferences as well as weddings and funeral wakes. So, what do you put on your website to attract all the different kinds of people who may want to find out more about your hotel?

Put pictures of business people at meetings and you put off those young brides-to-be. Similarly, fill your website with pictures of brides and you make the people wanting a funeral wake uncomfortable. And for business people, if you have images of people sitting around boardroom tables, you put off those companies wanting a conference.

Of course, you might say that people can home-in on exactly what they want by using the menu or the website search facility. However, people only do this if they are already a customer or use the site regularly. First-time visitors tend to take one look, and if they cannot see “this website is for me” they are out of there as quickly as they came in. This is why many websites have such high “bounce rates”; the website does not match the persona of the visitor.  If your persona is “young bride” you don’t want to see pictures on a hotel website of “middle-aged business man”. Equally, if you are an elderly person who is “recently widowed” you don’t want to see pictures of “young bride” on the hotel website. Matching landing pages to specific personas is therefore fundamental to online success; create the wrong impression and the visitor bounces out.

However, it is easy to confuse “persona” with “personality”. They are not really the same. You may be a “young bride” but you have a completely different personality to another “young bride”. Hence you will react in entirely different ways to web pages compared with another individual. Not only must a web page appeal to the “persona” but it also needs to be attractive to different personalities.

For example, some people are more visually focused than others. That personality type expects lots of pictures on your website. However, someone with a personality which is focused on detail will want to see things that go from “step one” to “step two” and so on.

Not only do you need to appeal to a website visitor persona, but you need to take into account their personality too. The whole issue of persona and personality was taken up in this article, Buyer Persona vs Buyer Personality: What’s the difference?

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