Engagement and optimisation: Defining behaviours



Photo by Nicholas Nova


The second of a seven part post about optimising a site to create a more engaged audience. Here we look at user behaviour and how methods used help ensure you address user needs.

Previously: Success metrics


I have written before about personas to design experiences around user wants and needs. The problem with personas is that to be truly valuable they require a fair amount  of data. For evidence based design decisions they have a real use and they fall into two types…

Simple Personas

These include decision making styles, content preferences and some segmentation.


Robust Personas

Includes Myers-Briggs-type indicator (seen below), psychographic profiles, market research, competitive analysis and detailed segmentation. Making the simple personas robust involves overlaying extra research in the form of market information, and business intelligence. Acknowledging the types of use behaviour here really helps when analysing the types of user behaviour online.


Applying the concept on a homepage


What would our four types of user behaviour want from Amazon?

Spontaneous seek top sellers & new releases, making the purchasse on a whim. Images lead choice here.

Humanistics care more about reviews or specific items for personal relations (birthdays, gifts to loved ones)

Methodicals find by genre & categorization, they will be likely to find their product through a specific personal criteria. Navigating and browsing through the list of items.

Competitives search by what they want or the best deal. Price is a key influence as well as perceived quality.

Relevance creates conversion

Not planning different content for different user types will inevitably leave some people out in the cold. This naturally results in abandonment and high bounce rates.

Of course it is difficult to cater for all types, all of the time, but be aware of trends. Be that in news needs, fashion, public opinion or group feeling. The nature of human behaviour is diverse, if you serve one experience you can not expect to be successful in converting all users. Be aware of the context of their use and their profile.


Photo by psd

Revisit the profiles

It’s important to get a good understanding of the advantages that can be gained by identifying personas, then also going back and analysing the segments of these personas and find new ways to appeal to them.

The best way, as described in the previous post, is to keep the ear to the ground, listening to ‘noise’ around blogs, forums, social networks and bookmarking sites. Using search engines as your listening device is a key trick here, as is the ability to sniff out the genuine revelation about your product.


Look at how frequently your visitors visit. Try to persuade them to visit more frequently.  Frequent visitors are more engaged with the site – they are more likely to help you generate content

Look at how long it has been since visitors last visited – there will become a point where they become passive and won’t be persuaded to come back easily.

Brand search term strength

Users who are engaged with your brand will search for it to find you.
Measure how many visits you get from your brand terms that can include marketing slogans, misspellings, even advertisements.

Gauge their emotional responses. Conduct surveys to find out what people think of the site, be that online exit surveys, email surveys, or user interviews. Try and ask real people who know and have an opinion about you site, product or brand.

Ask people who don’t have anything to do with the brand normally – they may be users in the future, and will certainly give you so unbiased feedback.


Photo by boltron

Getting behaviours defined

People’s behaviour is impossible to predict, we are only really  able to take educated guesses. Even best practice will not always give you the best result and so it is again a case of making iterative changes to your site to accommodate (and get in tune with) your users. Open up as many modes of communication that you can deal with and adjust what you deliver accordingly.

When you have cracked it, make a note of it somewhere and then be prepared to rip up the script as your audience moves on once again. As long as you can keep up and strive to stay ahead, then your audience should be retained. But be aware the job is never finished. Keep iterating, keep testing and keep the site alive.

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