Who are we designing for?

Dec 14, 2016 · 5 min read

This post is co-authored by Jess Klein and Nadav Savio.

Greenpeace websites have a diverse audience. To help people take meaningful action for the good of the planet, we will need to design Planet 4 around the different needs. This is the basis of “user-centered design.” To this end, we’ve created a set of audience archetypes. Archetypes are design tools that help us to move past common assumptions to design for actual user goals. Each archetype represents a relatively distinct group of people who might visit a web site or use a product or service. Based on user research, they are focused on key motivations, goals, and behaviors relevant to what is being designed.

To be useful to the design process, the number of archetypes should be limited and prioritized. They are not intended as a statistical model of the entire audience but are, rather, a design tool to help ground decisions in real people’s needs with a focus on the most important groups. Too many and they make it hard to focus, too few and we’re missing key use cases.

These archetypes will be specifically used to:

  1. generate realistic scenarios (e.g. Job Stories) for which we can imagine content and features
  2. evaluate proposed features (“Would feature X be useful to or used by archetype Y?”)
  3. ensure we consider audiences who are not currently accessing Greenpeace websites
  4. manage scope for design allowing identification of key audience types for ideation/innovation
  5. recruit research participants

During the discovery phase, we came up with an initial set of seven archetypes. These archetypes were derived by combining past audience research (at Greenpeace and externally) with intuition based on experience (aka taking a SWAG) and then ultimately developing distinct groupings, focused on goals and motivations relevant to this project.

From that initial group of seven, we identified three on which to focus for our initial ideation:


Concerned about future generations and feel guilty for not doing more, want to set a good example. Internally motivated and have both expertise and (some) time to give. Regularly read environmental news, sign online petitions from time to time when they come via emails, but unsure of impact.

Goal(s): Leave their (and others’) children a healthy planet and improve the larger community.

Connected Evangelists

Thoughtful progressive beliefs based on widely accepted facts. Regularly share articles and post political opinions on social media. May engage in online debate. Feel strongly about ideas and want to enlighten others.

Goals: Share beliefs with reliable data. Validate beliefs

Frontline Defenders

Concerned about wages, well being and education of children and elders. On the front line of environmental issues such as water pollution and climate change. May be active in unions, work co-ops, or other community groups. May not think of themselves as “environmentalists” or know about organizations like Greenpeace.

Goals: Fix a specific issue; stand up, protect and confront egregious wrongdoing.

How we got there

From a high level, our product team is working through a process where we are constantly generating ideas, synthesizing those ideas and ultimately, validating them. We used this lens to approach selecting three personas to focus on for our first set of releases.

Review and synthesize audience research

In the discovery phase of our work, we generated a ton of ideas about who the Planet 4 audience is and what an audience member’s goals might be. The team revisited this work by asking some intentionally controversial questions and then physically plotting where we stand on that statement with a spectrogram. Some of the intentionally controversial statements that we tested out were:

  • The site should assume people want to take action
  • The site should prioritize getting more people to take action over getting already-involved people more deeply involved
  • Some actions are much more important than others
  • Individual offices should take direction for content and style from the site
A spectrogram gets people to open up about where they stand on design decisions.

Connect the project, design and archetype goals

After the group debated the controversial statements, we worked together to clearly define design challenges for Planet 4. These challenges are intentionally more specific to the product than the pillars of engagement so that we can create testable prototypes to specifically address these tasks. At the same time, the challenges nicely complement the breadth, depth, and openness pillars of engagement.

Design challenges will help us to structure Planet 4 research and production goals.

One key takeaway from this exercise was acknowledging that the aim for greenpeace.org is to convert visitors into engaged change agents (as opposed to website users or members).

This signaled several things to the group:

  • We need to identify archetypes with the motivation and potential to take action towards environmental issues or climate change;
  • They needn’t be connected to Greenpeace (for example, they may never have visited the site); and
  • We can remain agnostic about where they ultimately take action, whether online or off, global or hyperlocal, connected to Greenpeace or not.

We added goals to the archetypes to help us identify whether the archetype and Planet 4 goals aligned, and then mapped them in this matrix.

Plotting design challenges against archetypes visualized project and audience alignment for this release.

Vote on which archetypes goals align with project goals

Finally, we did an asynchronous dot voting to gain consensus on deciding which archetypes to focus on for this release.

Dot voting allows us to visualize where we need to focus our attention for the next Planet 4 release.

Next up

To continue to ground our process in data, we have begun planning additional qualitative research with audience members. More on that in a future post. For now, we’d love to hear what you think based on your experience: Do the archetypes ring true to you? Do you see yourself in any of them? Do you have other questions or suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet it at #GPP4.

As always, if you’d like to follow along with what the Greenpeace design team is up to, please continue to keep an eye on this blog, as we will be sharing many process posts in the upcoming months.


Written by

Tinkering as much as possible. Currently @wikimedia. I'm the co-founder of the NYC Open Source Design meet up. @mozilla alum. @processingorg fellow

Planet 4

Planet 4

Planet 4 is the codename for the complete redesign of Greenpeace.org. This project will be developed using open principles, and this Medium Publication will be the central hub for news and updates pertaining to the Planet 4 project. Learn more at www.greenpeace.org/p4

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