Nonprofit UX – stop thinking in personas

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Nonprofit UX – stop thinking in personas


Most practitioners of UX are familiar with the idea of Personas. This is the practice where you research a niche of your target market in depth. Then, you create a persona to represent that particular niche. For example, if a nonprofit serves a niche of volunteers that are developers that work at digital agencies they might create the following persona.

  • Name: John Deverou
  • Occupation: PHP Developer
  • Age: 26
  • Interests: World of Warcraft, Second Life, Dungeons and Dragons
  • Is motivated by: Getting to build stuff that is complex

This persona is great, but when nonprofits set out to build out complex personas like this, it is easy to start to lose perspective on goals and get muddled down in the details.

Instead, I recommend that nonprofits think of their users in categories rather than as personas. Most nonprofits will have the following categories: service recipient, donor, and volunteer. Each of the categories has a lot in common and usually has a common goal in visiting the nonprofit’s website. Here is an example of thinking of these categories:

  • Category: Volunteer
  • Average Age Range: 24 – 38
  • Wants to: Find out about events the nonprofit is hosting and sign up to volunteer.
  • This involves: Finding the date of the event, filling out contact information to sign up, asking the user to share the event with friends, and adding the user to a mailing list to follow up with details about the event.

By thinking about UX for nonprofits in terms of categories rather than personas, we are able to keep our focus on a broader range of users while still focusing in on what they are wanting to do on the site and the actions that will be required to do that. If a nonprofit will create profiles like this for each of the categories of users that they serve they will be able to map out each user journey and better serve each user type.

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