When we create websites we often discuss different techniques that we work with. What is possible within the boundaries of a chosen tool and what isn’t? More often these concerns make place for something else: User Centered Design (UCD). The people who use a site become the primary concern. A fair idea, because a site needs to be interesting, intuitive and relevant for its audience.
Each audience has a different goal on your website. Besides these different goals, each individual visitor also has his own preferences. Preferences that cannot be changed because they define who we are and how we think and act. There are many different routes people can take on a website, which are based on these preferences.
The logical question that follows is how to identify these target audiences and how you can connect their goals and preferences. In the following I’ll show you how personality types can help you to create great user centered designs.
Goals can change. Fast.
Goals differ by audience, but also by visit. Every time someone visits your site, they might have a different goal, or their goal might change during their stay on your site. For example: not very long ago I wanted to look for a new clock. I searched the Internet for information about a specific type. This was my goal when I visited a specific website.
During my visit, I saw a few clocks that I liked. Very much! So I decided that I would buy one. My goal changed from gathering information to buying a clock in one single visit.
Now the question is which customer journey is the most important for you as designer or webmaster. It can be difficult to determine this, but luckily there are a several techniques that can help you. One common technique is the usage of personas. Personas can do a lot for you. For example, they can help you to:
- Get to know the target audience of your company;
- Understand what the target audience wants;
- Design for a person instead of a requirement report;
- Avoid designing for ‘The Elastic User’ (design based on the choices you make).
Once you have defined the personas and their goals, you can for example determine how the target audience will achieve their goals. These so called user stories help you to structure your site.
Yet, there is one thing that personas or user stories don’t take into account; personal preferences. This is where a new technique comes into the picture: personality types.
What are personality types?
Let me first tell you something about personality types. Maybe you have been invited to an assessment-center, where your (future) employee tried to find out what your personality type is. Why are they doing these tests? Because when they know what type of person you are, they also know what interests you. This is important when they – for example – assemble a team.
The differences in personality is not only important when you look at a team. It is also important on websites. It’s necessary that visitors can achieve their goals, but it’s also important that this happens in a way they feel comfortable with. For example when I visit your website, I want to have relevant information presented to me immediately. I don’t want to search for it and I don’t want to scroll down a page and read every letter. I click on a few links and and if I can’t find what I’m looking for, chances are good that I will leave your site.
Quick or slow? Facts or emotion? This determines the behaviour
A well known way to determine personality types is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The simple version can be used on the Web. It consists of four different personality types. You can determine which type you are, by answering two questions: “Do you make decisions quick or slow?” and “Are your decisions based on facts or on emotion?”. The outcome of these two questions places you in a quadrant.
Four dimensions of personality types according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator
Examples of personality types
As you can imagine, your visitors are all very different. To get a better picture of all four personality types that you should consider when designing your website, let me introduce to you:
- Jan-Willem, who is a friend and former club member of mine;
- Loes, who is my girlfriend;
- John, who is a colleague of mine;
- Jeffrey. Exactly: yours truly.
The funny thing is that the way they are in real life, is very much like the way they act on a website. Furthermore: you can count on it that all four types visit your website!
1. Slow & based on emotions
Jan-Willem takes his time and makes decision based on his emotions. Earlier this week I had a meeting with Jan-Willem. He told me that he was looking for someone who could build his new corporate website. He knew a few guys and already talked to most of them. Although the conversations were good, he wasn’t convinced and he is still looking.
Jan-Willem takes his time to make a decision. He decides using his emotions: he wants to have a personal connection. He wants to feel save and he wants to know that he can trust you. Jan-Willem can be convinced by using reviews and testimonials.
2. Slow & based on facts
Loes takes decisions based on facts, but takes her time to carefully consider all arguments. Loes is an assistant in a pharmacy. In the industry she works, only the facts matter. If she isn’t certain that two drugs can be combined, she dives into the details. She just wants – and needs – to know it all before she provides the drugs.
This is what she takes home. When she visits your website, she isn’t afraid of searching for the information she wants. You can make Loes very happy if you provide extensive product descriptions. Also, give her all the details you have about the delivery and even point out that you have a page with all ‘terms and conditions’ on it.
3. Quick & based on facts
John takes quick decisions and bases his decision on facts. If you work in projects, this must sound familiar. On every large project, we have a dedicated project leader. On a previous project this was John. When it was time to make important decisions, John needed to know all facts. What are the options we have? What are the arguments? Two minutes after he got his answers, he decided what we needed to do.
This is exactly what John wants to do on your website. Tell him why you are unique. Convince him with facts, reviews and testimonials. And don’t be afraid to use big quotes. John will notice them immediately when he scans your pages.
4. Quick & based on emotions
Jeffrey takes quick decisions and makes his decisions based on emotions. As I told you before: I’m a rapid decision maker and I usually don’t think too much before I come to a decision. When I visit your website, I want to know it all within a few clicks. Preferably without too much reading, because I don’t want to waste any time.
You can get me going by using big call-to-actions. You can also trigger me using temporary benefits and limited stocks. Because when I want to have something.. I want it now! And when I notice that the product I want is almost out of stock… I will not hesitate and I will buy it.
Everybody is equally important
You’ve met them all. You now know a bit more about who to focus your website on. But when you design or redesign your website, or make a small adjustment: don’t ask yourself which customer journey is the most important. Every customer journey is equally important.
Big international firms like Amazon, Dell and IKEA use the MBTI personality types for a very long time. Every page is structured in a way that it is interesting for everyone. Insurance companies even go a step further. They optimize the text in their campaigns to trigger every personality type.
I can’t tell you enough. Realize that every personality type visits your website. Adopt this state of mind and serve everyone in a way they feel comfortable with. Help them to achieve their goals according to their personal preferences and you will boost your conversion rates.