Personas and knowledge boards — capturing new insights about NCVO’s users
In my last post (the fourth in this series) I shared my experience of doing some user research — qualitative interviews and data analysis — to better understand how our users experienced NCVO’s fragmented portfolio of websites and digital services.
In this post I’ll share what we learned.
We synthesised and captured our learning in several ways, including:
- An updated knowledge board
- Three behaviour-based personas
A new knowledge board filled with evidence
As I wrote in the third post of this series, I love a good knowledge board!
It was fascinating — and satisfying — to revisit each item on our knowledge board after our research was synthesised to confirm which of our assumptions were correct, which were slightly or completely wrong, and to capture things that we now knew but hadn’t previously realised were important.
These are some of the more interesting insights.
NCVO vs Knowhow
This one was fascinating. In the interviews we heard everything from:
- ‘I had no idea this was an NCVO website’…
- ‘I thought it was just part of the main NCVO site, until I noticed the URL was different’…
…and everything in between!
Making sense of the complexity
Two more assumptions that we tested were:
- people find it difficult to navigate between the different sites and services
- people don’t know the breadth of what NCVO offers.
On the first of these, we found that very few people were navigating between sites — 98.9% of visits start and end on the same site — and in interviews, most users described a task-focused approach (more on this below).
However, we were absolutely right that they didn’t know the breadth of what we offered — we tested this quite simply by asking if they were aware of a number of different digital services. Even our most engaged users weren’t aware of them all. This was particularly true of our data site, but was also an issue for Investing in Volunteers and Volunteers Week (both partnership programmes, so not clearly branded as NCVO), How Charities Work, and a slight issue for Knowhow.
Subtle differences in user characteristics
One thing we didn’t know, but sought to find out, was the extent of the overlap of users of different sites and services. The data analysis I mentioned in my last post was really helpful here. We found that:
- Knowhow users are slightly more likely to be from smaller organisations, compared to NCVO site users
- Organisations with an annual income of between £100,000 and £1m use the NCVO site, Knowhow and our blog most
- ‘Infrastructure’ organisations use our sites more than other organisations (more on this below)
- Members use our sites more than non-members
- There is no clear difference in job role or organisation type between users of the NCVO site or Knowhow.
I’ve had many experiences of coming up with personas over the years, but this was the first time I’d developed them based on user research. This set of personas, developed with Simon I’Anson (then one of the fab CAST team), were also different because they described the different ways in which our core users (people in voluntary organisations, often leaders) interacted with our websites. They are not describing a particular role or type of organisation. The same person can move between these personas at different times.
They have helped us to understand and communicate how people really behave when they are using our digital services, rather than how we may think or wish people behaved. They are:
The needs-based searcher
- I am a sporadic user of NCVO sites
- NCVO is one source amongst many
- I am more likely to come to an NCVO site via a search or an external link, because I am seeking to answer a specific question
- I will bias my decision in favour of NCVO when viewing google search results, because I know and trust NCVO
- I may choose to sign up for emails, but if I do, they need to be highly tailored.
We believe that most of our users and most of our traffic fit this persona. Users we interviewed told us about how and why they would visit an NCVO site. The data analysis confirmed that most users visited for short times, most often from search engines, and didn’t browse around the site(s).
The highly engaged
- NCVO is my go-to
- I am a regular and prolific user of NCVO sites
- I have a deep understanding of their structure and navigation
- I regularly download, remix, use and distribute the content from NCVO
- I have the sites bookmarked, navigate directly to them, and my browser remembers my login details
- I am most concerned with knowing whether the information I’m looking at is up to date
- I receive and read emails from NCVO.
This persona was developed after interviewing users who work in local or specialist ‘infrastructure’ organisations (those that support people in voluntary organisations) who use our sites to help them meet the needs of their own users. Although a small group, these users are critical to NCVO as they are our partners — we could not achieve our mission without working with this vital network of organisations.
- I have recently needed to learn about the sector or an issue (new role, new responsibilities)
- I am browsing NCVO sites to learn and understand what support is available
- NCVO is one source amongst many
- I need clear and careful signposting to help me understand the breadth of what NCVO can offer me now, and in the longer term
- I am unfamiliar with all of NCVO’s sites and what you offer
- I am open to signing up to emails, but I need help to understand what’s on offer.
Although less common than ‘needs-based searchers’, meeting the needs of our ‘explorers’ is important, because they are more likely to need and be looking for our more detailed and in-depth services, such as quality standards, training courses, or research and policy work.
All this new insight has helped us as we develop our plans. In my next post I’ll share our experience of using prototypes to explore two user needs that we discovered we were not meeting very well.