Since I started creating websites in 1995, my mantra has always been ‘create it for the user’. At the end of the year 2009, this user centric means of designing websites is the mark of a quality site. Knowing your users is the foundation of an effective, hard working 24/7 website. A website that your visitors will return to, as well as refer others, for valuable content. Once we truly know our customers, or potential customers, we can create a site that will engage them. This engagement is the necessary step before they take the leap and perform the objective we’ve set out (buy, call, sign up, etc).

For the last several years, I’ve found the best way to really nail down who customers are, and what they want, is to develop “personas”. They’re perfect tools for ensuring that features added to a website are useful ones. They’re great for establishing effective website copy. I’ve even used them to keep projects on track and in scope. My clients are always tossing great ideas into the hat and we are able to discern whether the scope creep is necessary by bringing in our personas.

Recently I’ve discovered the book, The User is Always Right, by Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar. The book’s subtitle says it all – A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web. This book is definitely a great guide for really making the most of personas.It goes into depth about conducting qualitative and quantitative user research, as well as segmentation. It’s an interesting read for those of us that are out here creating websites. Check it out!