Personalisation - The Basics

Introduction to personalisation in websites or apps and the different types of personalisation available.


When a website or app provides proper personalisation, users get an experience with content just for them, not a one size fits all. This is based on what the system knows, or learns, about a visitor. In some realms, this is also known as “context marketing.”

Personalisation is, from a technical point of view, the ability for a system to observe user behaviour, evaluate the findings in a combination of algorithmic considerations and author/administrator control, then produce an action; typically to serve content to users that is deemed of relevance to what they need, or what a business wants to promote to them.

In short:

“Personalisation” is just an encompassing term for automated content delivery. In digital, personalisation is delivered through websites or apps which are intelligent enough to be able to make informed decisions and complete the three stages of the lifecycle.

The personalisation lifecycle

1. Observation

Count visits, count page views and interactions, capture form submission data, look at location, look at the user’s device. If the user logs into an account that they have, then the possibilities of data capture are vastly extended.

2. Evaluation

Take the captured visit data and process it; this is where author control comes in to play. In advanced CMS’ or back-office tools, content authors can be given sets of conditions and outcomes eg. “If user is a returning visitor… do something” This is true for CMS’ such as Sitecore, Adobe and a number of bespoke applications (like this website, administered through custom Umbraco powered mechanisms!).

3. Action

The evaluation determines the outcome, now the application needs to perform the determined action. Using the example above, “If user is a returning visitor…  Show welcome back message.”

Personalisation is just a series of Logic Gates

The nature of the evaluation and action stages is not dissimilar to the manner in which Boolean logic is conducted, through logic gates. The extent of author control in this regard depends on the extensibility and capability of the chosen platform. Most systems come with built in rules, then offer developers the opportunity to extend.

You will notice that, in order to practice what one preaches, this site is equipped with personalisation capabilities along the lines of the following...

Types of personalisation

Geo location


Where are you? Perhaps one of the most common types of personalisation - how many times have you seen “Looks like you’re in ***** (country name)” on a website!?  


Current location in the world (territory/physical GPS location). Showing “events near me” is quite common, or in fact anything “near me” is extremely popular and useful when looking for proximity critical products/services.



Where have you come from, what have you been searching for? When coming from somewhere else, there are mechanisms available for finding out what you’ve been up to….


  • A link in an email
  • Clicking a Google search results (although temperamental)
  • Hand off link from another website


By gaining insight into what types of searches a user has been performing, or if they have been referred by a promotionl email, content can be tailored accordingly.

Visit history

Visitor Profile

Where have you been, what have you been looking at? This is extremely powerful and is highly related to content taxonomy, gathering information about a visitor content trail. Even anonymously, when users visit pages it is possible to take note of this, then look at the at what the content they have seen is all about (taxonomy) and show them similar, related or unseen content as desired.


Device (user agent)


What equipment are you using? This type of personalisation happens quite commonly, with a broad range of level of success. At the most basic end, a website can detect that the user is coming from a mobile device and refer them a mobile website. Towards the advanced end, websites mix a combination of adaptive and responsive web delivery (more on this here) to create an experience optimised visually, for the screen, and in terms of page weight for available bandwidth/device performance.

The advantages of embracing personalisation

Personalisation enables opportunities within digital experiences which ultimately produces results in the form of the following:

From a user perspective:

  • Simplified user journeys and streamlined user interaction (better UX)
  • Reduced browsing duration
  • Increased purchase satisfaction
  • Overly enhanced consumer experience

From a business perspective:

  • Improved conversion volumes
  • Reduced manual customer support overhead
  • Bolstered brand confidence
  • Ultimate influence on bottom-line

In summary

Personalisation is a powerful addition to any content delivery system, whether that be an in-flight entertainment system, a brochure website, a travel blog, a news aggregation app, an eCommerce facility or a mail subscription service. When used properly, it can optimise user experiences and generate real business value.

More and more apps, websites and bespoke software applications are offering personalised experiences for users and this is becoming the norm in daily life for a vast and ever growing consumer base.

  • Digital Delivery
  • Digital Marketing
  • Personalisation
  • Automation

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