As real estate developers and designers we can often get so ingrained in the standard procedures of getting projects built that we forget to consider the needs and wants of the people who will actually be inhabiting the space. It seems obvious that each project needs to be tailored to a target set of users, but how often does this critical subject get overlooked?
With the increasing complexity of urban multifamily projects, it can be difficult to make time and space to dig into the question of whether or not people will really want the features and amenities you are providing. This is especially true of outdoor amenities, where there is much more freedom and possibility to explore. It’s easier to default to whatever the competition is doing or whatever happened on the last project.
But, there is a simple way to get to the bottom of this issue. At Loft Six Four, we create user personas to guide the conversation around what your users want and need from their outdoor amenities. First we take inventory of your demographic and market data and your marketing strategy. Then we combine it with our expertise in designing outdoor experiences that people love. We use this information to articulate 2-3 user personas that describe your target user and guide design decisions moving forward.
Having an agreed-upon set of user personas brings valuable insight to the design process and contributes to project success. Consider the following three reasons why you should develop user personas for each of your rooftop amenity designs.
1. Differentiate Your Property
User personas will help you differentiate your property by guiding you toward results that are distinct from what you would typically do. For example, if you identify a user persona that wants the best work from home setup available, you might end up offering outdoor work pods on your rooftop deck where there would typically just be fire pits and lounge seating.
Distinct user personas provide you with an opportunity for added creativity and a more focused design effort. Instead of trying to be all things to everyone, you will be creating a unique experience for a certain type of individual.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be excluding all others. Your design decisions may alienate some potential residents, but that is okay. A differentiated property will still attract plenty of undiscerning people who may not have a clear picture of what they want for themselves. But a differentiated property will also build a strong community of long-term residents who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
2. Deliver What Residents Actually Want
The practice of creating user personas is one of the best ways to develop empathy. Empathy is a key characteristic of a great designer as it allows you to imagine what another person would think or feel as they interact with your design. It’s a form of creativity that helps you discover what the program should be and why it matters to people.
As you develop empathy for a user persona you are more likely to create a program that delivers what residents actually want. This is because you are designing for a specific person, rather than a faceless crowd.
The single biggest driver of rooftop amenity success is how often residents use the space. That’s why we focus on the reasons why people would want to be there. If we can’t find a compelling reason for why someone would want to spend time in the space we are designing, we know we don’t have the right solution yet.
User personas challenge us to go beyond designing spaces that “look cool” and deliver what residents actually want. This becomes a huge advantage for your project, making it easily outshine any cookie cutter competitors.
3. Clarify the Value Proposition
Having unique user personas for each project is key to clarifying the value proposition. Your potential residents want to know as much as they can about your brand, product, and the experience they will have in your community before they buy.
Unique user personas contribute to a unique brand direction that should be used to direct the design process. Brand should infuse every design decision from the overarching theme to the smallest detail. Strong brands know what their customers want because they first understand who their customers are.
Ideally, you would investigate the market in the neighborhood where you are building your project so that your user personas reflect the personalities to whom you are marketing your product. Rich consumer data is required to formulate brands that resonate with the right people for your community.
The architecture of outdoor living experience and rooftop amenities should be informed by the brand and oriented toward the specific user personas identified. Our best, most outstanding projects come about when there is a strong collaboration between Loft Six Four and the project’s brand creators. This is because it helps the community speak a clear and coordinated message about who should live there and how it will be valuable to them.
While it may be tempting to skip developing user personas for each project, you will definitely be missing out on an important piece of your project’s success. It’s easy to default back to what you have seen work in the past, but you’ll lose the opportunity to be cutting edge and create true stand out projects. Take the time and effort to zero in on your user personas. You won’t regret it.