Hack: Instantly improve your design skills

Hack: Instantly improve your design skills

Disha Sharma's Layout avatar

When you tag a design project with client requirements, details, and creative briefs, you’ll only create a website, a lifeless website. But the moment you add personality traits to it, you bring it alive.

Let me put this differently. Which adjectives/phrases would you use to describe a website?

Neat, uncluttered, smooth, balanced, great typography, nice sliders, intuitive menu, sleek header, and so on….

And which adjectives/phrases would you use to describe a person?

Bold, convincing, helpful, confident, trustworthy, fun-loving, cheerful, weird, and so on…

Notice the difference? The first set shares technical specs, details, and highlights, but fails to:

  • Make a personal connection
  • Resonate with one’s feelings
  • Invoke emotions

The second set effortlessly helps in bringing about all 3 of those qualities, which is why good designers would prefer their projects to be discussed using the second set of words.

Photo credit to Simon Blackley. Photo credit to Simon Blackley.

And the best and easiest way to get people to talk about your website (your design) using the second set of adjectives is to create a persona for it.

Persona—That’s the buzzword!

The minute you create and visualize a persona for your design project, you stop treating it like a product (website) and start feeling about it as a person. And this is exactly how the hundreds of visitors will perceive and respond to it when they land on your website.

Creating a persona (for both the users as well as the project) improves your design skills by allowing you to do the following four things:

1. Design for a Person

In the writing domain, you come across this advice often—don’t write for everyone. Write for the “one” reader.

That’s the surest and the most guaranteed way to strike a bond. Likewise, you can apply this advice while designing. Don’t design for a faceless mass (or the full audience), but for the “one” user whose pain points your website will address.

Personas help you in identifying this “one” person.

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Sure, you can have multiple personas, but this is again something that you’ll only realize when you start building them. Otherwise, trying to design for the whole audience won’t add a lot of meaning, direction, or personality to the website.

2. Appeal to Emotions

The best write-ups are ones that evoke emotions. And so are the best design works.
If you can get a reader (or visitor) to feel a certain feeling through your words or UI, you’re sure to retain him or her.

For example, if you’re designing a legal service provider’s website, you know that the people who’re expected to visit are perhaps tense and entangled in bitter arguments. You’ll want your website to carry and prompt the emotions of reassurance and calm.

When your audience’s emotions are reciprocated in such ways, it’s a clear win for your design. With personas, you can create designs that are tightly interwoven with the personality characteristics of the brand and how they can balance those of the audience.

3. Add a Personality

Most of the time, it’s someone’s personality that stays with you. You could remember someone for being cheerful, or someone else for being very loud.

Personas help you in adding a personality to your site. The minute you sketch its personality, every single design element of yours works to reflect it. The whole design tries to live up to this image and lets the personality traits shine through.

4. Build a Bond

Users aren’t the most patient of the lot. And before they actually become “users,” they’re just visitors browsing through options.

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Your client’s website is his online workspace. It’s the first point of contact between him and his potential customers.

Taking resort in personas will help you imbibe the spirit of your client’s business into the website. This is great for building (and nurturing) bonds.

Further Reading

There are some awesome posts about this topic on the Internet. But if you can only squeeze in time for one, I’d ask you to read this piece featured on A List Apart. Aarron Walter, Director of User Experience at MailChimp, has put together the most thorough and engaging article about using personas for adding personalities to design projects. He even shared a template that you can use to create a design persona for your next project.

It’s a must-read for every web designer.

Bonus: He has discussed MailChimp’s case study. I’m sure you don’t want to miss this.

For Your Amusement

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or somewhat bogged down by the idea of setting up formal personalities for your project (or users), go kooky. Try this free fun app called Personapp.io. I use it all the time for my writing projects. It lets you create quick informal personas and share them with your whole team.

Personas are at the heart of successful designing. So, go all out and try to get people to feel something in your next design project.

If you have persona templates for your audience and projects, please do share them with the rest of us. And how do you add personality to your design elements? I’d love to know.

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