In the first part of our guide, we introduced the fundamentals of virtual tours. This section focuses on identifying target users and tools to better understand their needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. User personas and user journey maps are two tools we used to achieve these goals.
Building user personas
As part of the planning process, you can create user personas to define your ideal target user. User personas represent the people that will be engaging with your product or service. They don’t describe real people, but rather are built from real data collected from multiple individuals in your target group. They map out the interests and pain points of your target audience and are intended to help you further understand who they are and what they value. You can always build your user persona from a blank canvas, but there are also many websites that provide free templates to help you create them, such as Xtensio and Sketch App Sources.
When doing research for post-secondary virtual tours, we created a user persona that analyzed the characteristics of prospective students (below). What you’re looking at is a compilation of qualitative data from research interviews and interactions from people looking to pursue post-secondary education, as well as first-year students who had recently gone through the process. It includes everything from the pain points they feel when they first start applying to the goals they want to achieve with their post-secondary education.
Here’s the story about Jennifer, the archetype in our persona above. Jennifer is in her final year of high school and is getting ready to apply to post-secondary. When doing her research, her top priorities are to find a program and school that will give her a valuable learning experience and a variety of student life activities. Students like Jennifer will often attend on-campus tours to learn more about the school, the programs they’re applying to, the accommodations they’re provided with and the extra-curricular activities that are offered. Translating Jennifer’s needs from her in-person tour to a virtual tour will help prospective students like her with their research of post-secondary options.
While researching post-secondary prospects, going on campus tours helped us collect data and information to build out the persona above. It also provided the opportunity to observe first-hand the questions students asked and the parts of the tour that engaged them the most.
Mapping out a user journey
Broadly defined, a user journey map outlines the stages, emotions, and actions your target audience takes over time while working towards a goal. It could depict the process to select your product or service, or continue throughout the life of your customer as they interact and engage with your organization. Drawing on the persona example above, Jennifer is a high school senior with a goal of enrollment in post-secondary school. When you create a user journey map for your target audience, it’ll be easier to identify how and when your communications, products or services can help move them towards their goal. You don’t need to design it from scratch — there are templates from Sketch App Resources and Dribbble to get you started.
We used a journey map to design virtual tours for post-secondary students. Understanding journeys from the student’s point-of-view helped us position content and configure our product in a way that supports them. Below we’ve mapped out the journey starting with discovering post-secondary options up to when they enrol at an institution. Have a look.
Through research and interviews with high school and first-year students, we uncovered seven stages that students went through. We layered on actions along the way, feelings experienced, and touchpoints and channels they interacted with. This exercise helped us understand their uncertainties and develop empathy in order to make better product design, content, and UX decisions.
Understanding who you are designing for is a crucial step in building an engaging and relevant experience. The application of user personas and journey maps will put you in the shoes of your target audience and help you understand their emotions and desires.
In the next part of the series, we will apply the research gathered from user personas and journey maps to create compelling and effective stories for our audiences.