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An effective website must meet both user and business requirements, right? In the case where a business simply needs to gather qualified leads and the user is simply trying to learn more about the business, how can I create a true data backed persona that will inform my design decisions?

Ethnographic or contextual research would be ideal, but what is there to observe in this case? There is no tangible product and interaction is limited to main navigation and perhaps a contact form.

Is the concept of a persona not applicable to this case?

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Would you not consider the business the "product"? Aspects of the business that are wanting to be made known (facts, fluff, etc.) and the user's perception of the company may equate to goals of that product. –  Evil Closet Monkey Nov 26 '13 at 20:18
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Why is the user trying to learn more about the business? If you can answer that, you can probably come up with personas. If, on the other hand, your bosses/clients just told you to make the site because they want to show off to the world but you can't think of a reason why anybody would want to read what they have to say, then you have my sympathy, but personas won't make the site work. –  Rumi P. Nov 27 '13 at 11:52
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1 Answer

I'm not sure I understand your question. If the question is: "I'm developing a product page, but I don't have a product yet. Should I use personas to drive the product page design?"

Then my answer would be absolutely. Even if you don't have a product, you should design your product and web site in order to captivate and address the questions of the customers you are trying to target.

You could argue that you want to develop a web page that is just for the purpose of creating lead generation, so the page could have a generic message and asks people for their emails. But wouldn't it be more effective if you designed the page in a way that I understand what you are building and made me interest in it? I think it would increase the likelihood of me giving you my information.

Conclusion

Personas allow you to focus on the customer segment you are targeting. Every decision should be made taking your customers into consideration (even if you are still trying to get customers). Instead of thinking about the customer that might buy your product, it helps to think about Suzzy that is a mother of 3 and would really be glad if she found that the product you're building is available at her favorite retail store.

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