Unpacking Personas: The moving tale of Bill & Francesca

by Peter Binek

11 April 2017

User personas are incredibly useful. We couldn’t design new products and services (or improve existing ones) without them. But how do they work?

By helping us to empathise with the attitudes, goals and motivations of users (the people who interact with our products and services), we can begin to understand what matters to them. Keeping these users front-of-mind throughout a project ensures that what we produce will solve a real world problem for real world people.

The best personas strike an effective balance between user needs and business goals, and Bill & Francesca are two such personas.

Creating Bill & Francesca

After we'd worked with Man With A Van on their brand strategy it was time to tackle their website. With a new and improved enquiry and booking process, the website would offer a better experience for users and reduce the time The Man would spend estimating jobs.

That meant less time on the phone and more time on the move.

We were lucky enough to have a series of customer interviews from our previous brand strategy work to help us gain insight into the types of customers who would be using the website. These insights, combined with the shared knowledge of the company founders, began to paint a picture of two distinct user-types — Bill and Francesca. Having Bill and Francesca on board meant we had clear reference points to ensure that we were always making design decisions with these users' goals in mind.

Bill: ‘The skeptic'
Age: 45
Status: Married, 2 Kids

‘I only want to know one thing: how much?’

‘I’m researching a number of moving companies so I’ll need more info before I fill out an enquiry’

‘I want to see a price estimate without adding any personal info as I’m not sure if I want to use Man With A Van yet.’

Francesca: ‘The ideal customer’

Age: 33
Status: Single with pets

‘I’ve moved with The Man before and I’d like to use them again for my next move.’

‘I’m happy to spend time filling out an enquiry if it’s not going to be a painful experience.’

‘I’d like to lock in a date and time so it’s all organised and done.’

After users explore move options on the slider tool, they have two clear paths to more personalised information: ‘Book this move’ for Francesca or the more passive ‘Quick estimate’ for Bill who's not ready to commit to an enquiry yet.

Convincing Bill

Bill is a bit of a skeptic so we made sure he had a more passive pathway into the enquiry process with a ‘quick estimate’ and ‘ballpark figure’ option. This allowed him to start the process of an enquiry without having to enter any personal information. If he’s happy with the estimate, he can easily continue on to the enquiry stage without having to re-enter information he's already added.

The interactive 'How much?' page allows Bill to do some research while also offering a direct route to a ‘Ballpark figure’ and ultimately giving him the option to complete the enquiry.

A clear path for Francesca

Francesca is a return customer. Meticulous, organised and probably booking a few weeks in advance, Francesca wants to know she can supply as much detail as possible so there are no surprises on moving day. We made sure she had a clear route into the booking process so she could start it quickly and also have the ability to add as much (or as little) detail as she’d like.

The item picker not only lets Francesca enter every item she wants to move but also gives The Man an opportunity to offer more accurate quotes without the need for long phone calls.

The potential of user personas

Well-constructed user personas, based on real user research and insights, can be applied to any product or service to ultimately create a better result. For example:

Scenario 1 – Switching customers to online billing
If a large telco wanted to encourage customers to switch from paper to online billing, it could conduct research to identify the main concerns of customers who haven't yet made the switch. This research would help form user personas that would aid in defining how the online billing process should be explained to customers and the type of support and marketing material that might be required.

Scenario 2 – A career guidance website for VCE students
If the Department of Education wanted to introduce a new career guidance website or app for VCE students, it could conduct research and develop personas based on the different goals, motivations and frustrations of these students. The approach and solution for an overwhelmed student with too many options might be very different to a disengaged student with a lack of motivation. It’s important that both of these personas' needs are considered in the creation and promotion of the product.

There are many methods for creating user personas; some are comprehensive and full of detail while others are brief and concise. Some projects may require many personas and others (like this one) might only need two.

There's no right or wrong way to create or utilise a persona. As long as it's based on a real user's thoughts, experiences and attitudes, it has the potential to be a powerful tool for building better products and services.