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This year, we have been taking a deeper dive into our persona research by sharing ethnographies with you through our “Persona Spotlight” series. In our constant quest to provide our users with the best experience possible, understanding our users’ characteristics and behaviors is incredibly important. User research is a driving force as we redesign, update, and invest in your newspaper’s online obituary.

Throughout the ethnographies, we have found some things that are consistent across multiple personas:

80% of the people on our site have reduced eyesight. Presbyopia is an eye condition where the ability to focus on near objects becomes weakened after the age of 40 (Source: American Optometric Association). Four out of five users on our site have presbyopia. A “Rosemary” we interviewed said, “I like the fact that I don’t have to look for where I put the name in. You have multiple places and being at a certain age, bigger is better.” Because of this, increasing our site’s font size and readability was an important aspect of the design of our Next Generation Obituary.

Different cultures and religions honor their lost loved ones differently. Through some of our “Rosemary” and “Lindsey” ethnographies, we learned of experiences like them feeling caught off guard coming to a Roman Catholic funeral and seeing an open casket, or how sending flowers is strongly discouraged for Jewish funerals. One “Lindsey” we interviewed said, “Flowers aren’t a thing in really traditional Jewish culture, and we’re a really traditional Jewish family, so it wouldn’t occur to me to do so, given that most of what I know about flowers is where the obituary says, “In lieu of flowers, make a donation to charity.” These findings have inspired us to put together funeral and traditions guides by religion, expand our e-commerce offerings to include printed Guest Books, and grow our charity partnerships.

Advertising is in the eye of the beholder. Many of the people we interviewed had strong opinions about what kinds of advertising is appropriate on obituary pages. Generally, they didn’t view useful services like flowers and charities as advertising, but broader categories were not as welcome. A “John” we interviewed said, “This is fitting. You’ve got a memorial here, and there’s pictures of flowers that you could send. That makes sense.” As pressures from today’s changing advertising landscape continue to grow, we are expanding our e-commerce solutions to include other relevant offerings that provide a unique advantage to grow your revenue.

Email drives online sessions. In most interviews, email was the driver of online behavior. It began most sessions and was checked first thing in the morning and last thing at night for many of the people we met. When it comes to learning of a death, personal calls are how family and close friends find out the news of a death, but email is a common way for the news of a death to reach the outer circle of the deceased. Despite the rise of social and mobile, email is still just as important as it ever was. NGO’s innovative design has prominently featured email sharing and social sharing buttons on every obituary and Guest Book, making it easy to share with family and friends.

As we continue to upgrade and invest in your online obituary site, research is the catalyst that pushes all of our product updates and enhancements forward. We are constantly performing A/B testing and user testing, and we are continuing our persona research to understand your readers better and provide them with an outstanding experience.