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understanding user personas

understanding user personas

understanding user personas

home / Archives for January 2019

Ever wondered what user personas are and why they’re important? Read on…

what are user personas?

A common part of the web development process involves understanding what exactly goes through the mind of the fictional Sarah Green, aged 28, who lives in Hertfordshire and drives a Fiat 500, when she visits your site.

Sarah is an example of a user persona – a fictional character developed to express a particular user type’s requirements, preferences and expectations. These personas help clarify how different users will respond to and engage with any digital tools and interfaces (such as websites or apps) that are being designed and built.

User personas usually include demographic details (age, gender, income range etc), plus a short description of the user type’s main requirements and any additional information that is relevant to the particular project. For example, if we’re developing a complex e-commerce site, we might comment on the persona’s IT literacy skills, or if we’re developing a site for new parents, we might add details about the constraints on their time.

approaching design decisions

Why is it important to understand a user such as Sarah’s age and gender, what she will be interested in when visiting your site?

The development of personas is usually not a particularly expensive undertaking (as a percentage of the overall budget) and acts as an invaluable compass for navigating the many decisions that are made during any digital design and build. User personas act as the starting point for all functional and creative decisions, ensuring that the end result is fit for purpose.

maximising stakeholder alignment

One additional advantage of creating user personas is that it helps diverse internal stakeholders to come together and understand what your website or digital product can and should deliver, and importantly what it can’t and won’t. This is often an initial stumbling block in the planning phases, where multiple stakeholders have diverse requirements and can end up arguing over which should have priority.

By creating user personas that are focused on user requirements and business benefits, stakeholders can see exactly why and how decisions are being taken. This maximises stakeholder alignment and means that everyone involved in the digital design and build can pull together in the same direction.

user persona macro groups & sub-groups

Typically, the fewer business drivers that are required of a website or digital product, the easier it is to ensure it delivers. It’s therefore best to design as few user personas as possible initially.

Personas can be categorised into ‘macro’ groups, by concentrating on the main characteristics that make users similar (rather than different). For example, users who are looking to purchase something from a website will have more similarities than differences when navigating the purchasing interface. Therefore, as long as we focus on their key requirements whilst developing that interface, we can create a useful and effective tool, whatever the users’ more individual needs.

This is an oversimplification, but the point rings true in most circumstances. It enables a ‘lean’ approach to design, focusing the minds of everyone involved and facilitating faster and more insightful decision-making. Once macro-groups have been created, these can be divided into a much larger number of sub-groups which cover different user types’ nuances and preferences.

Most websites have three distinct macro groups which cover each user’s core motivation and needs:

  • Customers – people looking for a benefit of some sort from the organisation, such as via making a purchase or accessing information. This group typically embodies the organisation’s main revenue stream(s) and reason for existence. Putting your customers’ needs first is usually advisable.
  • Bystanders – these are typically people interested in supporting or commenting on the organisation and its activities, usually in a professional capacity. They may include journalists, politicians or individuals working in a similar market or sector.
  • Staff – people who work for the organisation and expect the site to deliver in relation to their working activities. Website administrators are often an important sub-group here, but other ‘business case’ stakeholders also reside within this group.

These groups may overlap to some degree and an individual can belong to multiple groups at any one time. For example, if a member of staff happens to purchase a product for personal consumption, they will belong within both the ‘customer’ and ‘staff’ groups.

in conclusion

To sum up, user personas are a tool that helps identify commonality amongst a diverse range of user requirements and expectations. They bring clarity of focus for the whole project team, encourage stakeholder alignment and ensure business benefits are at the heart of the decision-making. Ultimately they result in a better user experience and end result for your website or digital product.

If you’d like help with user personas or a digital design/build, please get in touch!

a guide to Google Ad grants

a guide to Google Ad grants

a guide to Google Ad grants

home / Archives for January 2019

Get your charity advertising for free on Google with this guide to Google Ad grant accounts, written by John Onion and upated by Chris Jay from upriseUP

basics of Google search & Pay Per Click (PPC)

To us, search engine marketing is the holy grail of advertising. More traditional means of promotion is often perceived as a nuisance by the very audience it attempts to cultivate. However, search engine marketing targets only users looking for that product or service – at the very time they are looking for that product of service. It actively enhances the user experience.

Google is by far the most dominant search provider, covering over 80% of the UK market, and it is the largest search engine in most pockets of the world.

The good news for charities is that Google offer ongoing grants of $10,000 per month for PPC advertising on its search engine. Today, this represents £7,848 in value.

The grant is available to any charity that fits Google’s rather wide selection criteria, regardless of size. For most people looking to promote a charity, it represents the quickest and easiest means to do so.

Not only is the Google Ad grant the lowest hanging fruit, but for most organisations it is also the juiciest. Benefits vary from sector to sector, but for most charities the practical implications of the grant can be over 250 daily users, targeted by their search activity (exactly who the charity is looking to attract): potential beneficiaries, donors, campaigners, job applicants, or people looking for a charity to support by doing a physical challenge.

getting started

The Google Ad grant programme is open to any registered charity that fits Google’s selection criteria, regardless of size. Google reserves the right to turn charities down for any reason, including the organisation’s politics, and does not accept hospitals, health care providers or schools. However, refusal from Google is rare.

  1. Assuming you’re eligible, the first step is to apply for a Google for Non-Profits account.
  2. Once this has been approved, you’ll need to submit the pre-qualification form which can be found in the enrolment guide.
  3. After receiving pre-qualification approval, you need to follow the steps laid out in the enrolment guide to set up your account.
  4. After completing this set up you’re ready to submit your account for review. The final step in getting yourself a Google Ad grant account.

Once the account has been authorised by the Google grants team (it can take 30 days from submission of the application, although in our experience it is more likely to be reviewed within a week), you will have a $330 value to ‘spend’ each day in Google Ads.

Google Ad Words charity grants

Google search ads appear on the Google search engine on the top and bottom of search results pages. There are restrictions in how advertisers can use their ads, designed to ensure best practise is followed. Also, advertisers using the grant may not appear on search partner sites, nor use Google’s content network which allows image ads to be shown on numerous publisher websites. Full guidelines from Google can be found here.

how to develop a Google Ads account

How high up the page Google shows your ad is decided by how well your organisation scores compared with other advertisers. Scores are broken down into two key variables, bid amounts and quality scores (QS).

As there are restrictions to bid amounts from grant accounts, maximising QS becomes the all-important factor in improving your ad rank. The exact method by which Google calculate QS is not disclosed, however it’s Google’s way of determining the relevancy of your web page to the user’s query.

Important factors for determining QS include:

  • CTR (click-through rate) – how many times your ad will be clicked on once seen. Google Ad grant policies dictate a minimum click-through rate for the account of 5%. However, the latest algorithm updates from October 2018 restricted impressions for anything other than super-focused keywords. From this we have seen CTRs increase up towards 8-9%.
  • Whether the language in the ad matches the keywords, the search query and is also repeated on the destination page.
  • The number of users unsatisfied with your landing page that then repeat their search.
  • The account history – how relevant an organisation’s Google Ads account has been proven to Google over time.

Google’s incredible success has been on the back of ensuring that to the best of their ability all information they provide to their users is as relevant as possible. The most important tip I can give is this: become as obsessed by the detail as Google. The language used in searches on the internet needs to be relevant to your page, as often the same principles apply. Ad text needs to directly answer the user’s query and demonstrate that the site is what they are looking for. Keywords need to be selected in Google Ads to ensure that all possible search options relevant to that page are covered. Also, the Campaign Manager needs to ensure that similar search terms not relevant to the organisation are blocked through the effective use of different match types. For example, a mental health charity working only with children might introduce the word ‘Adult’ as a negative match keyword in order to filter out irrelevant clicks.

Although charities want to use Google Ads to attract more site visitors, the most common mistake that they make is to throw the net too wide and for their ads to appear in irrelevant searches. If people are clicking on your ads and then turning away, this will have repercussions on your account history and thus your QS. If left unchecked it might make it hard for any of your ads to be seen.

The trick is to look at the things that your organisation does –and that people would be searching for. Examples of successful campaigns are:

  • Details of the services you provide to beneficiaries: This is key and can include online resources that they can research. One of our clients is Diabetes UK and they are very good at ensuring that good quality information is available on their site so that anyone concerned about the signs of diabetes can find the information they are looking for. This service is then actively promoted through the grant in order to reach out to potential beneficiaries.
  • Details of your beneficiaries and how you are supporting them: This is also very important for certain charities, especially for appeal campaigns where the issues are being reported in the media. Several of our clients are involved in international aid and if they are responding to a crisis in a particular country, to them people researching that crisis online are potentially a very valuable pool of donors.
  • Promotion of niche events that are supporting your charity: Restrictions on bid amounts used in the grant ($2 per click if you would like to retain manual control), can make it hard to promote certain events, such as the London Marathon, as many charities are using a separate paid account for popular fundraising. But campaigns based around more unusual ‘bespoke’ fundraising events such as a mountain walk in Snowdonia or toddler activities in local areas might be able to achieve a better outcome.
  • Advocacy campaigning functions: If there is a popular story in the media and your organisation is trying to lobby Government to make changes, Google Ads campaigns targeting people searching on these issues can be highly effective and will attract an audience to you that may later become active supporters.
  • Relevant donation queries: Again, restrictions on bid amounts in the grant account can make being competitive here difficult. By aiming a campaign at niche search terms you will be better able to attract donors. If you are a charity specialising on specific illnesses or a sector of the public then target those search terms. For example, rather than ‘donate to a child charity’, use keywords such as ‘donate to a child autism charity’. By being detailed in the keywords you use, although you are limiting your potential pool of donors, you are actually reaching out much further to those likely to donate to you.

Once campaigns are running, monitor and check your progress continually. For each group of keywords two or three ads should be tested against each other. Following the trial, poorly performing ads should be stopped and new ads written – either variants on successful ads or completely new ads, trialling new messages.

Keywords need to be monitored too and keywords performing poorly, with either a low QS or click through rate (CTR), should be stopped. By strictly applying these rules your account will accrue positive account history which will benefit the performance of all your campaigns.

Lastly, pull through your conversion data from whichever analytics programme you are using. The beauty of Google Ads is that you can see what is converting for you – the keywords and also the ad text. This information is especially important once your account is maximising the potential spend available, enabling you to ensure your charity is achieving the highest possible ROI.

Google Ad grant policy update

Starting from January 2018, Google introduced stringent new policies that all ad grant accounts are required to follow. The full policies are too long to be explained in detail here, but can be found on Google’s policy page.

If you have your own account, you may well find our automated Google Ad grant compliance checker useful.

There have been other rules implemented, like not using single word keywords (except under certain circumstances), and not allowing the average account CTR to fall below 5%.

If you would like any more information, upriseUP would be glad to help. We are Google qualified and specialise in the charity sector. We have a proven track record and considerable success in Google Ads development and are one of the Certified Professional Ad Grant Agencies.

digital challenges (& opportunities) for membership organisations in 2019

digital challenges (& opportunities) for membership organisations in 2019

digital challenges (& opportunities) for membership organisations in 2019

home / Archives for January 2019

The digital landscape has shifted massively over the last few years, and technological capabilities and member expectations are changing just as rapidly. With increasing use of mobile devices to access information, a plethora of social media platforms and ever-evolving search engine algorithms, many UK membership organisations are struggling to find their footing and achieve success in today’s digital world.

We’ve worked with countless membership organisations over the last two decades, from IOM3 to The Fostering Network and Clinical Skills to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. And whilst today’s world does present challenges, there are also plenty of opportunities to improve your membership offering, increase engagement and boost revenue by taking advantage of everything the digital world has to offer.

Here’s what we see as the key digital challenges facing membership organisations in 2019…

the digital landscape is changing

The digital world in becoming increasingly complex, so to ensure your membership organisation remains relevant, it’s important to keep up with the latest digital trends:

  • Multiple devices: People are using vast numbers of devices/browsers, each of which translates and interprets your website code in its own unique way. To enable your site to be accessed by as many people as possible, you need to ensure browser compatibility.
  • Mobile-first: Since 2015, when smartphones overtook desktops as the most popular device for accessing the internet, mobile use has continued to increase. It’s therefore advisable to use a mobile-first approach, which means considering mobile devices first when designing/planning any new digital platforms or services, and then working upward to larger screen sizes. Mobile compatibility is also an important search engine ranking factor.
  • Social media: With social media platforms popping up and disappearing all the time, you need to stay familiar with relevant platforms and decide where it is best to focus your energy in order to engage your members.
  • Search engine algorithms: Each year, Google changes its search algorithm 500+ times. While most of these changes are minor, it’s important to keep up-to-date with SEO or you risk dropping down the search rankings and losing organic traffic. This year, voice search is becoming more important than ever with 41% of adults (and 55% of teens) using voice search daily.

security and data protection is a top priority

In 2016, we found that 50% of membership sites weren’t using security protection on their sites, even when payment details were required. With GDPR regulations and increasing consumer concerns about data protection, website security is vital to ensure both legal compliance and foster brand trust. Additionally, Google favours secure websites in its search results as well. Fortunately it’s free and easy to implement secure browsing by upgrading to HTTPS on your membership site.

member expectations are higher than ever

The average person picks up their phone 85 times a day and spends at least five hours browsing the web and using apps, according to a study by Nottingham Trent University. Whether it’s for grocery shopping, browsing cinema listings or renewing membership, people are increasingly expecting to use technology to find information and perform daily tasks online. You can keep members happy by:

  • Enabling online joining/payment: Quicker and easier than filling out a paper form or picking up the phone, this means that members can join or renew at any time of the day or night.
  • Providing an online member zone: A members-only area on your website means you can provide exclusive member resources, allow members to update their details online, and encourage members to connect with each other to form a vibrant and lively community.
  • Maximising page speed: Around half of consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less, with a one second delay decreasing satisfaction by 16%, so it’s important to ensure you have a good website page speed.
  • Developing creative content: Video, animations and infographics are becoming increasingly popular mediums to share information and encourage member engagement, with 75% of member organisations expecting to make greater use of them over the next year.
  • Optimising user experience: Make sure your website navigation is clear and well-structured so users can find what they need. It’s also important to check for broken links and ensure you have a great 404 error page.
  • Ensuring ongoing maintenance: Just like a car needs regular MOTs and servicing, websites need ongoing updates to work optimally. Follow our free website maintenance checklist to learn how to keep your site in tip-top shape and ensure it’s always meeting member expectations.

personalisation is a must

Users today are accustomed to a high level of personalisation in their online experiences – whether it’s being shown relevant ads, seeing suggested social and news posts, or having similar products recommended.

Personalisation is a brilliant opportunity to engage members and ensure they see the most relevant events, news, information and learning opportunities. If your website is integrated with your membership management system or database, you can ensure unique information is provided for each member. From simple membership renewal exactly when membership is about to run out, to personalised e-courses and information about local events, the potential for personalisation is endless.

technology is evolving

One of the biggest challenges for many membership organisations is their legacy database, CRM, billing or other technological system. Many membership organisations have been around for centuries, and the data collected on these systems is vast and invaluable but often it’s out of date and not integrated with the organisation’s website. Not only does this result in a significantly increased administrative workload, but it also means that member data is not being used effectively. Switching to newer, integrated technologies is a great opportunity for membership organisations to save time and money as well as improve member retention.

In 2019, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also becoming increasingly important and changing the way the world operates. Membership organisations can take advantage of AI in countless ways – for example, to identify donation habits, to match members for networking purposes, or by using chatbots to respond to member enquiries.

digital thinking should be strategic

Many membership organisations understand that change is needed, but struggle to work out a cohesive digital strategy. Often there is disagreement between stakeholders regarding the purpose of a website. Some organisations don’t know where to best spend their time and budget digitally, or aren’t sure how to maximise the value of their data. Some find it difficult to reach new members online, whilst others lack a unified look and feel across their digital platforms. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced consultancy partner is a great way to develop a clear digital strategy and destination for your organisation.

in conclusion…

Membership organisations should be asking themselves questions about how they fit into today’s online world and provide digital value to their members. With strategic thinking and clever use of digital technology, it’s possible to delight members new and old, such that they return to your website again and again – and renew their membership when the time comes. Although this may require some initial investment, and you’ll need to keep up to date with digital developments, this can be more than repaid in member revenue and support.

If you’d like to hear more about how we can partner with your organisation and help you overcome digital challenges, please get in touch

what are brand guidelines & do we need them?

what are brand guidelines & do we need them?

what are brand guidelines & do we need them?

home / Archives for January 2019

Once you have a logo, some stationery and a website, isn’t a brand ready to go!? What are brand guidelines and do you actually need them, or are they just the result of designers trying to drum up extra income?

Brand guidelines are basically a set of rules defining how your brand should be represented. Ultimately, whilst they may take a bit of time and energy to produce, we believe they’re well worth it to ensure brand consistency and recognition.

what are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines provide essential information about your brand, including what it consists of, how it should be displayed and the tone of voice it has. They supply the basics of the style upon which a rich and varied range of products/content can be built. They are aimed at:

  • Employees – this is so that everyone knows how to speak about and represent the brand. Guidelines help maintain consistency and ensure staff members convey a unified message.
  • Designers and external contractors – this ensures there is a unified look, feel and message across all brand and marketing materials. Guidelines provide a structure for designers to work from.

what should be included in brand guidelines?

Branding guidelines should definitely include:

  • A broad summary of the brand/organisation, including its background, values and vision
  • An indication of the brand’s ‘voice’ or personality – is it serious or humorous, technical or straightforward?
  • The logo and logo variations – are there different versions (in different colours/shapes)? Is it ok to reverse the logo? How much clearance is needed around it?
  • A colour palette – showing the main colours that should be used to represent your brand, as well as any secondary colours that can be used in particular circumstances
  • Font/text specifications – what font(s) do you use? Are there any words that should or shouldn’t be used to describe the brand?
  • Photography and illustration styles – what type of imagery should be used to represent your brand?
  • Examples of brand layouts – for example, on letterheads, web pages and social media

Additionally, you may choose to include editorial guidelines (regarding about your written/social media/video styles), and/or notes about advertising and campaign approaches.

This may sound like a lot of rules and regulations but it just needs to be clear enough so that staff and contractors can create content and get your message out there with a coherent and recognisable brand style.

do branding guidelines stifle creativity?

This is unlikely to be a problem as brand standards are now so common that staff and designers are more likely to be surprised if you don’t have them. A branding guide gives everyone a few basic rules and structures within which creativity is definitely possible and encouraged! They allow creative brand materials to be designed within recognisable constraints, just like a jazz musician improvises over a basic chord sequence.

A clear and consistent brand is the backbone of any successful organisation and greatly assists your marketing and sales efforts, as well as paving the path for organisational growth.

If you’d like any help with creating or implementing brand guidelines, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.