Introducing the SitePoint Personas

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We recently decided to develop some personas to aid the design process here at It’s the first time we’ve ever developed personas, and we chose to experiment by combining a couple of approaches. What follows is the result of this exercise.

Before I introduce you to our new members of the family though, a few notes are in order:

  • While these personas will no doubt be useful for us as we design the next version of, they’ll obviously fall short of capturing the nuances of each and every single visitor. If you think we’re missing a huge chunk of our audience, then of course we want to hear about it, but please, there’s no offense intended if the backstory of each of these individuals differs wildly from your own. For instance, we know not all teenagers are troublemakers; after all, these are fictitious characters.
  • There are different opinions about the best way to create personas, as well as how useful they really are. If you’re curious about the process I followed, you can read all about it here.
  • Are you wondering which SitePoint persona you identify with the most? Take our fun quiz to find out!

With that out the way, allow me to introduce the SitePoint Personas – a group comprising eight fictitious readers that we think do a fairly good job of representing a majority of our visitors. They’re separated into two groups: Returning Visitors and New Visitors. Let us know if you agree, or if you think we have it wildly wrong.

Returning Visitors

The Front-end Coder

The Front-end Coder

Erin Kikuchi (28, USA)

Erin lives in Los Angeles and works as a web developer for a large movie production company. Any time a movie is released, her team launches a new site and email campaign to promote the movie. She considers herself to be an advanced level client-side coder and an intermediate PHP developer. She lives alone with a white Persian kitty named Ruffles.

Erin’s team consists mainly of Flash developers, so the majority of the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript coding falls on her shoulders. She mostly visits to check the syntax for her code in the Reference sites, but has yet to purchase either of the hard copy versions.

Erin also keeps an eye on the tutorials and has recently started paying more attention to the blogs. She doesn’t use RSS, so she just checks the site for updates whenever she finds time. Erin does have a forum account, and used to interact with the forum community earlier in her career. However, these days she lacks the time, so has been unable to log in for a while. Other sites she visits include A List Apart and Think Vitamin.

Erin runs Windows Vista, and uses Firefox as her browser of choice, largely because of the useful Firebug plugin.

Erin makes buying decisions in a spontaneous fashion – for example,
she bought an Ajax book from Amazon purely because it had been authored by one of her favorite bloggers, with the hope that she might incorporate some Ajax into an upcoming project. In fact, the project didn’t go ahead, but she was happy with her purchase anyway.

Questions Erin asks herself when she visits include:

  • How do I find the correct syntax for the CSS border property?
  • Are there any recent tutorials that are relevant to me?
  • How can I find out more about whether this book is right for me?
  • How can I contact customer support about the books I ordered?

The Workaholic Business Owner

The Workaholic Business Owner

Samuel Johnson (35, USA)

Samuel is originally from Seattle, but moved to San Francisco to establish a startup company. While he designed and built his company’s original web site by himself, these days Samuel spends less time actually designing and coding, and more time focusing on the expansion of his business. He has an intermediate level of understanding about client- and server-side technologies. Samuel shares an apartment with his girlfriend, Leila.

Samuel employs six people and his company is growing rapidly. He has purchased several SitePoint books over the years, which are displayed proudly on the office bookshelf for other staff members to read and reference. Samuel is happy to invest money in learning resources if it means that his questions will be answered.

Samuel subscribes to the SitePoint Tribune and the Design View email newsletters. He also reads lots of blogs, including TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Seth Godin, and Joel on Software. Since he began using the FeedBurner RSS reader he’s begun to visit, mainly to click through to a tutorial or to leave comment on a blog post, although he’s still quite a frequent user of the SitePoint Marketplace.

Samuel runs Windows XP and uses Internet Explorer as his browser. He follows SitePoint on Twitter, but likens Twitter to “drinking from the fire hose” and has used it less lately due to time constraints.

Samuel exhibits a competitive buying pattern. He makes decisions quickly, based on logic and the information at hand. If a product looks like it fits the bill for what he is after, then he’s likely to make a purchasing decision on the spot.

Questions Samuel asks himself when he visits include:

  • Where can I read about how to outsource work?
  • Where can I find out about using social media to promote my business?
  • How do I submit an article for publication?
  • Do these guys run a podcast that I might be interested in?
  • Where is the RSS feed for this blog?

The Forum Junkie

The Forum Junkie

Raj Sumandra (19, India)

Raj lives in Chennai, India, and has just started working as a web designer for a large government organization. His workload is fairly light, so it frees him up to spend a significant amount of time posting in the forums. Raj’s passion is for good design, and he likes to enter the occasional contest on He’s an advanced user of Adobe Photoshop, but is at intermediate level in the field of writing markup and code. Raj lives with his parents in a high-rise on the outskirts of the city.

Raj is a long-time member of the SitePoint Forums, and has clocked up over 3,000 posts. His main motivation for visiting is to feel a sense of belonging; he has formed many friendships in the community, with moderators and advisers, and enjoys interacting with all of them. He also reads the articles regularly, and has written a few tutorials himself over the years.

Raj is also active on the Digital Point forums, although to a lesser degree.

At work, Raj uses Internet Explorer and Windows XP. He follows SitePoint on Twitter.

Raj responds to online advertising in a humanistic manner – he values the community associated with the company, and admires the brand. That said, he hates that serves popups, and makes frequent reference to this in his posts. In spite of this, he’s a strong advocate for SitePoint products in the forums, and buys almost every book the moment it comes out.

Questions Raj asks himself when he visits include:

  • What are the latest unanswered threads that I may be able to help with?
  • What discussion topics are hot today?
  • Have any tutorials about design been published lately?

The Rebellious Teenager

The Troublemaking Teenager

Marco Gonzales (15, Australia)

Marco lives in Sydney with his parents and his annoying younger sister, Cherie.

He enjoys building sites with WordPress and is quite proficient at writing templates and tweaking PHP code, but lacks any real appreciation for good design. He owns a pirated copy of Photoshop, but is unsure of how to really use it.

Marco enjoys discussing the latest web development techniques and industry news (and plenty of other topics completely unrelated to web development) in the forums. Unfortunately, much of what he writes in the forums is uninformed and unnecessarily negative. He has developed friendships with other forum members, but at the same time has rubbed other forum members the wrong way with his snarky comments and immature behavior.

Marco visits digg several times a day, and is a heavy Facebook user. He’s also a frequent visitor to several CSS gallery sites, which he uses for inspiration in the design of sites that he builds – that is, he has no qualms about reusing another person’s style sheets without attribution.

Marco runs Windows XP and browses the Web with Firefox.

Marco has yet to actually purchase anything online, as he’s too young to have a credit card. He may consider asking his parents to buy an item for him, but to date he just downloads books and software using a peer-to-peer torrent-sharing network.

Questions Marco asks himself when he visits include:

  • Where can I find some free stuff?
  • What private messages have I received?
  • What forum threads are my friends reading and commenting on?
  • Does SitePoint have a Twitter or Facebook account that I can connect with?
New Visitors

The Newbie Hobbyist

The Newbie Hobbyist

Harvey Randolph (62, USA)

Harvey lives in New York City. Before retiring he worked as a watchmaker, and still tinkers with old clocks and watches, but he sold the business to retire a couple of years ago. He lives with his wife Joyce in Queens. Every winter they contemplate moving south to be in a warmer climate, but decide that being close to their children and grandchildren is more important.

Harvey wants to set up a web site to display his collection of antique timepieces to the world. He lacks any experience with building web sites or with using a computer in general, but he does have a lot of spare time and he is patient.

Harvey uses Windows XP and Firefox, which his son installed for him. He likes that it is easy to increase the text size of any web site he visits, as his vision is beginning to fail him. Harvey also dislikes using the mouse, because he suffers from RSI, so prefers navigating using the keyboard whenever possible.

Harvey is very methodical in his purchases. He is likely to telephone customer support to ask pre-sales questions before making a decision, as he feels more comfortable talking to a “real” person than sending an email, although he is slowly adapting.

Harvey visited by searching for the term “sitepoint”; this was recommended to him as a good resource for beginning web design.

Questions Harvey asks himself when he visits include:

  • What is this site all about?
  • How do I make a start with HTML?
  • Why am I unable to see what I’m looking for in the search results?

The Enthusiastic Blogger

The Enthusiastic Blogger

Susan Kieslinger (17, Germany)

Susan lives in Hanover, Germany.

She’s a visual arts student from Berlin who lives on campus during the semester and with her parents during the holiday periods. Susan spends a lot of time on MySpace and Facebook, and has a personal blog on LiveJournal that uses a standard template design. She’s a beginner in the world of web development, but she’s very web savvy and a quick learner. Susan speaks fluent German and English.

Recently Susan has wanted to expand her site to add extra functionality, such as creating a portfolio of her artwork and possibly adding an ecommerce feature to sell a few of her masterpieces. Being quite creative she also plans on applying a custom design, and is determined to learn how to go about this herself.

When Susan first visited, her initial impression was that the site in its entirety was overwhelming. She tried to sign up for a forum account but found the process a bit confusing, and left the site after reading an article on styling forms with CSS.

Susan uses a Mac and browses with the Firefox browser.

Susan is a caring and emotional person, and this is reflected in her humanistic purchasing patterns. Whenever she is made to feel part of a community, she will willingly purchase a product that’s associated with that community.

Susan found whilst searching for information about styling forms using CSS.

Questions Susan asks herself when she visits include:

  • Where do I start?
  • How do I sign up to an email newsletter?
  • How do I sign up to the forums?

The Googling Geek

The Googling Geek

Joseph Forrest (26, UK)

Joseph lives in Leeds and is an advanced web developer, specializing in PHP. He works as a freelance coder and maintains his own blog about programming in PHP. Joseph only recently made the jump from freelancing part-time to full-time, and works for clients around the world. Joseph shares a house with a friend from school, Patrick, who works as a software developer for a big corporate firm.

Joseph shows no loyal behavior to any particular online community. He prefers to use Google to find the answers to technical hurdles that he encounters, rather than asking a colleague for help. He relies on social media sites like delicious, Hacker News and Slashdot to obtain news, information, and inspiration. He listens to technical podcasts while he works and in the car.

Joseph tries to attend at least one international conference a year, and is also involved in organizing his local BarCamp conference.

Joseph is a Mac user and browses the Web with Safari 4.

Joseph exhibits competitive buying behavior. For example, he received an email about the SitePoint book, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design on the same day that he needed to create a design for a client – an area that he wanted to improve on. After reviewing the sales page briefly he decided that it was just what he was after, and purchased the book the next day. Being price conscious he made his purchase from, even though he discovered the book via (thus forgoing the extra goodies that often come with purchasing directly from SitePoint).

Joseph visited most recently when searching for information about coding HTML email.

Questions Joseph asks himself when he visits include:

  • How do I know if this information is credible?
  • How does this page relate to my query?

The Visually-impaired Student

The Visually-impaired Student

Scott McInnes (23, Canada)

Scott lives with his Dad in Toronto.

His mother was killed in a car accident when he was 11. Scott survived the accident, but suffered injuries to his eyes that left him legally blind.

Scott relies heavily on his computer for his day-to-day survival. He uses the JAWS screen reader, which reads pages on his screen aloud. He uses the Web and email extensively to conduct his grocery shopping, pay bills, purchase music, and connect with friends.

Scott is studying for a computer science degree part-time at university, and has created several personal web sites in his spare time. He enjoys the challenge of presenting information in a format that’s easily navigable by other blind people, and is active in several vision-impaired discussion groups online.

Scott runs Windows XP and uses Opera as his primary browser, largely because of the many built-in accessibility features that it provides.

Scott’s primary motivation when purchasing a book about web development is, understandably, how well the topic of accessibility is handled. He is, however, quite methodical on occasion; he’s very thorough when researching a product online, and will read all of the testimonials and customer reviews about a product before purchasing.

Scott found while searching for tutorials on sending email using PHP.

Questions Scott asks himself when he visits include:

  • Who runs SitePoint and what do they stand for?
  • How do I download the code archive for the book I purchased?
  • Can I trust the advice that this company delivers about accessibility?
  • Are SitePoint an environmentally responsible publisher?

How did we do? Do you think this correctly reflects the majority of visitors to, or is there a particular type of user that we haven’t accounted for? Let us know in the comments, read about the process we followed, or take our fun quiz to find out which persona you identify with most! (Hint: it will take less than a minute and you could win a $100 Amazon voucher!

Matthew MagainMatthew Magain
View Author

Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and He is currently the Chief Doodler at Sketch Group, Co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world. Matthew is also the creator of Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine.

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