Jobs to Be Done in Web Design

We’re huge advocates of creating personas during the strategy phase of web design. If nothing else, personas help stakeholders view the process from the perspectives of their target audience rather than focusing on their own, personal objectives. Personas can include a wide range of information depending on who’s crafting them. Designers have different opinions about what is important or useful. Some shy away from demographics finding them less relevant. Others include demographics to help paint a more vivid picture.

We feel “Jobs to Be Done” is one of the most important data points any persona could contain. What are “Jobs to Be Done?” Let’s explore.

The “Jobs to Be Done” Theory

Jobs to Be Done is a method of understanding what’s motivating your target audience. The theory aims to look beyond the surface-level needs and identify the deep, underlying root cause so you can uncover the core of what they’re trying to accomplish.

The classic example goes something like this… “When someone is buying a drill, they don’t actually need a drill, they need the ability to create holes.”

The class Jobs to be Done Example - You buy a drill because you want holes.

Let’s look at another example in more detail:

Sarah is Researching New Cars

Sarah lands on your automotive dealership website. You might identify her objective as researching available models and ultimately scheduling an appointment was a sales rep for some test drives. Is Sarah’s most basic goal to schedule an appointment? Nope. Let’s dig deeper.

Sarah ultimately wants to buy a car–this is just one step on her journey. Is Sarah’s end goal to buy a car? Nope. We can dig deeper still.

Sarah needs an efficient way to travel. That’s why she needs a car. Not any form of transportation will work, which is why she’s looking at a car and not a bike. Sarah has two young children who need to be transported safely to daycare every day while she goes to work.

Sarah’s job is caring for her family and keeping them safe. She needs a car so she can earn a living and provide. The car needs to keep her kids safe while driving.

This gives you a different more nuanced perspective compared to where we started, which was “scheduling an appointment to test drive cars.”

How to Identify the Job to Be Done

First identify the reasons someone might visit your site, purchase your product or hire your service. Then take it one step further and ask, “Why do they want that in the first place?” Challenge yourself by asking this same question to your answer and continue the process until you’ve uncovered the underlying root need.

For example, we could identify that people visit our website because they’re looking for assistance with a website redesign. But why do they need a redesign? Well, most often our prospects are looking to increase lead volume and ultimately sales. We can take this a step further–why do they need more lead volume or sales? We often work with marketing managers whose performance is being measured by these two key performance indicators (KPIs.) As a result, their success depends on having an effective website and this success directly influences their feeling of self-worth and ability to provide for themselves and their family. It’s a powerful realization that’s more complex than it seems from the surface.

During this process, you might identify that what a customer is looking for isn’t the best solution for their job to be done. Maybe the website is adequate but there’s a traffic problem, or not enough of the right people are visiting the site. Maybe their target audience isn’t online and they should market in more traditional media. This perspective gives you the ability to identify the right solutions for an individual and actually help them accomplish their job to be done.

Writing JTBD Statements

To encapsulate a users job to be done, we recommend writing a job statement using the format developed by Intercom. This is done by filling in the sentence below:

When <situation> I want to <motivation> so I can <expected outcome>.

Let’s use our car shopping example above.

When <I’m shopping for cars> I want to <find a safe, reliable car> so I can <earn a living and keep my children safe>.

You might end up with multiple statements per user group and that’s okay.

Personas vs. Jobs to Be Done

There’s debate about the value of personas and some designers advocate for doing away with personas entirely in favor of JTBD and/or empathy maps. We recommend both. The major criticism of Personas is they focus on “who” even though the “who” may not be relevant. Someone shopping for a safe car might not fit into a neatly defined demographic and thus a persona could be misleading.

In my opinion, that’s focusing on the wrong aspect of personas. Personas are not intended to represent a strict definition or demographic of your target audience. They’re intended to give context to your design decisions. They are a way of guiding your thought process and focusing design decisions. It’s alright if your 36-year-old female also represents a 56-year-old man provided the context and motivations are the same, the outcomes are also the same. That’s why we incorporate multiple dimensions like Jobs to Be Done into our personas.