Marketing + Web

Using Archetypes to Inform UX

July 31, 2019

5 mins

If you’re building a new website, web application, or app, understanding what your consumers want and need is of the utmost importance. But where do you start? How do you know what will best serve your customers?

These questions and more all fall under the umbrella of user experience (UX). The Nielsen Norman Group summarizes UX, stating that “user experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

From the engineering and interface design to copywriting, marketing, and more, the total user experience should be seamless. Determining how a user’s experience will occur derives from understanding their behavior usage. And to understand their behavior usage, we turn to archetypes.

While personas are often utilized in broader marketing strategy, archetypes differ and are a more accurate way to inform your UX. Personas are fictionalized and hypothetical characters that represent segments of your user base and are built around demographic details such as age, occupation, education, and more, but leave out a key aspect: behaviors. Additionally, personas are often discovered as a by-product rather than being the starting point of a project, and you risk altering your persona to validate inaccurate design decisions.

While personas are often utilized in broader marketing strategy, archetypes differ and are a more accurate way to inform your UX.

Furthermore, a user’s characteristics and behaviors don’t always align. But where personas are lacking, archetypes are there to fill in the gaps—and provide invaluable consumer insights. Archetypes are specifically developed around a type of behavior usage, such as the occasional user, the task centric user or a novice user. And unlike personas, archetype research is intentional and occurs during the early stages of a project, yielding more informed and accurate design decisions.

While developing archetypes, you’ll determine the primary focus of your users, their end-goals, and any specific tasks or features they may use. As archetypes are determined, you can model your design around the goals and behaviors of these specific users.

Archetypes help you discover behavioral patterns to predict how a user will behave and can be validated through analytics and consumer feedback. Well-designed archetype research will use a combination of persona and archetype information to find real customers that match the persona characteristics and the expected behavior of the archetype to ensure the predicted behavioral patterns are accurate. While user behavior may always change and archetypes should be adjusted as such, this thorough level of research allows for an accurately designed product from the beginning, creating a nearly flawless user experience for your customers.

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