by Drory Ben-Menachem, Creative Director
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In order to design meaningful experiences for people, we must first do two things: UNDERSTAND and EMPATHIZE.
When a designer understands and empathizes with the people they are designing for, it can have a profound effect on the decisions they make. It broadens their perspective and forces them to challenge their own biases and conventions in favor of approaches that align to the people’s goals, needs and pain-points.
The target audience influences nearly every decision we make for a digital experience. This includes technology selection, look and feel, interaction design patterns and use cases. In order to facilitate these decisions, we aggregate and interpret our user research into representational customer profiles – Personas and Archetypes.
These tools help curate seemingly faceless data points into something relatable, and serve as a tangible element that generates customer empathy and understanding from team members and stakeholders.
Personas focus on the “who” of your audience research. They include demographic details such as age, gender, occupation, education, interests, etc. They are useful to provide insight into the characteristics of a target audience, but often don’t include details on behavioral patterns.
Typically, only one customer group occupies one persona throughout the customer journey.
Personas are helpful for visualizing customer segments, so project teams can relate to those segments and build solutions for them. They help the team avoid designing a product from a client-as-customer or us-as-customer perspective.
Archetypes are steeped in user behavior. They contain details from user interviews around a group’s needs, motivations and pain-points. Archetypes focus on the “who does what, when they do it, and why” of your audience research. They provide insight into behavior patterns – how a customer is using a product or service currently.
People can also fall into multiple archetypes throughout the journey, depending on their goals.
Archetypes most directly help determine the approach and functionality of a user experience, as well as contributing to determining, validating, and prioritizing product features.
WHY ARCHETYPES OVER PERSONAS?
Personas are useful tools for business decision makers. The demographic data contained in a persona can help guide consumer and market positioning, as well as inform marketing and sales strategies.
The challenge with personas, however, is that they focus on characteristics, and are often created with little insight into the behavior of the people they represent – which opens the door to assumptions by your project team.
Characteristics and behavior do not always align – the difference, in some cases, could be very volatile. Furthermore, a person’s behavior can be vastly different depending upon the context or circumstances.
Because archetypes focus on user behavior and motivation, they are more useful than personas for defining experiences – they empower your team to immerse themselves in what the customer is doing and what they desire to achieve. Archetypes based upon research data results in a more accurate UX strategy, creating a stronger foundation for the project overall.
For the project represented here, we interviewed 26 employees across 3 departments to identify the 6 archetypes shown. Mapping each archetype’s behavioral landscape helped to guide the project team’s – and the client’s – decisions around features, functionality and content, and resulted in a more meaningful and valuable outcome for the organization.