(Illustration is my own.)

How to Structure Content for 5 User Types

Lessons learned from User Insight at GOVTalks: The Future of Your Website

Rachel Hart
Mar 29, 2018 · 7 min read

My team, Digital Services Georgia, handles the tech and design behind the state’s web publishing platform. As we look to the next state of this platform, we need to do more than copy-and-paste the old sites into the new system.

We’re using the re-platforming as an opportunity to look closer at what we have and what our users are getting out of it.

As part of this effort, we partnered with a few vendors to help us see what’s working and how we can improve. One of these vendors is User Insight, an Atlanta-based team dedicated to understanding users and their behaviors. They dug into the usage of Georgia.gov and other highly-trafficked state agency websites, and presented their findings at GOVTalks: The Future of Your Website.

Who are Your Users: 5 Archetypes

As you refine your digital strategy and communication efforts, you know you have a few different audiences. You might group your audience based on demographics — age, location, occupation, etc. These segmentations can be helpful, but they don’t always tell us what we need.

User Insight shared a different approach to understanding our users. They’ve grouped users into 5 different behavior patterns that cross demographic lines.

User Insight identified 5 user archetypes: Thorough, Decisive, Opportunist, Trusting, and Traditional.

Let’s see how each of these user types would decide where to go for dinner.

Thorough

A Thorough will research every restaurant, diner, and cafeteria in a 10-mile radius, and organize their findings in a spreadsheet. They are now an expert on nearby eateries.

  • Highly cautious
  • Highly confident
  • Self-trusting

Decisive

Decisives act quickly. They will come with a list: “It serves burgers. It’s $10–15. It’s no more than 15 minutes away.” And once they find a place that checks every box, they’re good to go.

  • Highly impulsive
  • Highly confident
  • Self-trusting

Opportunist

An Opportunist will say “Oh, you decide.” They take the path of least resistance, and would rather not decide themselves. When they must decide, they wait until the last possible minute.

  • Neither cautious nor impulsive
  • Neither unsure nor confident
  • Need guidance

Trusting

A Trusting will turn to the reviews. They’ll read every Yelp, Google, and Facebook review, and then ask their friends what they’ve heard.

  • Fairly cautious
  • A little unsure
  • Need guidance

Traditional

If you’ve gone to dinner once with a Traditional, there’s no need to ask what they want. They want to go the same place as last time so they can get that same amazing chicken dish.

  • Highly cautious
  • Highly unsure
  • Need guidance

Making Decisions Based on the Archetypes

Well now we know who to ask for a dinner recommendation (Thoroughs … always ask the Thoroughs) but what does that mean for your digital services?

Once you understand how each archetype interacts with your content, you can make design and content decisions that will help them attain their goals.

Take a Georgia.gov Popular Topics page, for example.

Each user type will approach the Popular Topics pages on Georgia.gov differently.

Opportunists will jump straight to the links on the right.

Thoroughs will carefully read the whole page.

Decisives will skim through and look for applicable keywords.

Trustings will jump to the FAQs, looking for quick steps and links.

Traditionals might never see this page. They’re already on the phone with their local office.

5 Archetypes … Need them All?

Not every page will attract every type of user, nor should it.

For example, let’s say you are required to provide legal information on your site explaining what types of form submissions you’ll accept. So think to yourself: “What type of user cares about this?”

If it’s me on this page, I’m scrolling until I see the first checkbox.

Decisives and Opportunists are in too much of a hurry. Trustings would rather read bullet points that tell them what to do. Traditionals, again, will just call or visit your office.

That legal information is really there for your Thoroughs. They will read everything until they understand the topic as well as possible.

Even if the legal information is above the webform, most users will scroll straight to the submit button, and you’re still getting requests that you can’t accept. For these users, it might as well not be on the page at all. And all the while, Traditionals, Opportunists, and Trustings are overwhelmed and frustrated with the huge block of text!

The problem isn’t with the information, it’s with how it’s presented.

You can still have this required information on the site, just move it to a separate page where the lawyers and the Thoroughs can find it. And then on the webform page, distill key ideas to a few bullet points. Disperse it as short descriptions throughout the webform itself. And always use simple language.

Now that you have a page targeted for Thoroughs, use that page to support them. Give them everything they want — full legal text, relevant links, facts and figures.

Addressing Multiple User Types on One Page

Though we can sometimes break information into separate pages for different types of users, there’s no denying that some of our pages need to speak to a few groups at once.

The Georgia Department of Revenue’s forms page provides a few navigation options that address different user types.

The Department of Revenue’s Forms page successfully addresses multiple types of users with a 3-pronged approach: a quick link to the most relevant information, a full list of forms, and the ability to search or filter the forms.

As you think about how to structure your content, consider how you can provide multiple paths to the same information to resonate with different types of users.

Don’t Scrap Other User Classifications

These 5 archetypes are only one way of grouping your users. With this type of categorization, we’re looking at behavior patterns. How do these people interact with your agency and your digital services? These user types can help you identify how to structure content. You can anticipate what types of content will resonate with what types of people.

But it doesn’t tell you what the content should say.

When we consulted with the team at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, we uncovered 4 primary personas using their website.

We based these personas off of each group’s goal for using the website and their attitudes coming into it. This will help the team name who sees various sections of the site. And it will help them identify what information on the site users need most, and what they can delete or deemphasize.

Based on what we know of Confident Carla, she’s probably a Decisive, an Opportunist, or a Trusting.

Next, we can look at these groups and see which of the 5 behavioral archetypes most relate to the personas.

Confident Carla is excited to attend training, but she’s still ready to do the task and get back to her daily work. That’s certainly not a Traditional or a Thorough. So let’s think about how we can structure the information she needs for Decisives, Opportunists, and Trustings.

Key Finding: Users Don’t Care About Your Brand

Beyond teaching us about the 5 behavioral types, User Insight tested GeorgiaGov sites with real users.

When a user comes to a state agency website, they have a goal. And typically, that goal is not to see your logo or colors.

Are these design choices still important? Of course! We offer a variety of themes with different fonts and colors so the website can accurately represent the agency. The Environmental Protection Division feels different than the Governor’s Office, and it should.

But more important than distinctions between agencies is our unified brand as Georgia’s state government.

Users don’t see us as agencies; They see us as “the government.”

Moving forward, we’re planning for consistency between how agencies present themselves. Users trust the state seal. They appreciate when one government site looks and functions like the next. Yes, agencies operate separately and serve different needs, but the user needs them to connect so they know who to trust.

Watch the Talk

Want to learn more about user types and the GeorgiaGov study? Watch User Insight’s full talk, presented by Shaw Strothers and Kevin O’Connor.


This post was originally published December 15, 2017 on the Digital Services Georgia website.

Digital Services Georgia is a nonpartisan division of the Georgia Technology Authority. This publication does not entertain political discussions.

Digital Services Georgia

The team that provides a web platform, training, consulting, and governance for Georgia state agencies. We put people’s needs first.

Rachel Hart

Written by

UX Designer at Digital Services Georgia. Follow our publication at medium.com/gagov

Digital Services Georgia

The team that provides a web platform, training, consulting, and governance for Georgia state agencies. We put people’s needs first.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade