Huh? Getting “personal” with my users? Wouldn’t that be a bad thing? Don’t worry, in this case we are talking about building user “personas”- which is a fantastic thing. Let’s explain.

Personas are the lifelike, fictional characters that reflect your customers’ innermost needs and desires. In the case of your app, the personas that you create will essentially represent your mobile app’s various groups of users.  The ultimate objective of creating user personas is for you and your team to have quick and crystal-clear representations of who you will be building relationships with.

This persona creation process is actually used across big business sectors like consumer goods, finance, advertising, media, retail and many others. It’s such an important business process because it allows major corporations to interact with millions of their customers in highly-relatable ways. But, with the ever-changing mobile landscape and rising rates of mobile app usage – creating personas for your mobile app(s) will be one the most crucial processes that you ever encounter.

In order to build and maintain a successful product, you have to know a lot about your users, such as their intrinsic needs, desires, opinions and so much more. Creating user personas is one of the greatest ways for you to achieve that knowledge and ultimately fortify your app’s user experience.

To create your app’s personas, you will need to eliminate assumptions about your customers, collect valuable data, analyze your data, and then effectively determine what your different customer groups are truly searching for in a mobile app experience. Of course, you’ll want to neatly organize your findings in a clear visual format as well, but we’ll get to that shortly. Let’s go ahead and begin the process of building a winning persona together.

 

Persona example from Hakuna Mobile App. Source: hsiungised.com
Persona example from Hakuna Mobile App. Source: hsiungised.com

 

Researching Personas

Research is the essential core for persona development. To research personas for your mobile app, you can pursue either primary persona research, secondary persona research, or a combination of both. Not only does finding high-quality and accurate sources for persona research involve strategy and intuition, your organizational skills will also be put to the test. Gathering meticulous notes, recording any interviews that you perform, and organizing your research into digestible, actionable points will help you to interpret your data much more clearly later on in the process.

 

Primary Persona Research

Source: usability.gov
Source: usability.gov

Primary persona research consists of conducting focus group experiments, surveying your target market in-person, or even driving mobile traffic to different customer types. This is largely a process of acquiring fresh new perspectives directly from various customer themselves. It’s your opportunity to extract first-hand your target audiences’ greatest wants, needs, joys, triggers, and fears, and ultimately walk away with compelling new data that exposes your users’ deepest truths. One of the advantages of primary persona research also involves acquiring information that your competitors may not have access to.

While primary persona research can be pricey for some mobile app start-up businesses, you’re normally paying a higher price tag for higher-quality data in these situations. Not wanting to take out your wallet? Don’t fret. There are additional ways to conduct persona research that can also be very effective.

 

Secondary Persona Research

Source: pcworld.com
Source: pcworld.com

For the bootstrapping mobile app entrepreneur, “secondary persona research” can quite effective, but without the higher price tag. The goal of secondary persona research is to explore your different personas’ careers, hobbies, passions, emotions, annoyances, habits and every other little detail that you can find via data that already exists.

For example, you can still figure out your customers’ deepest layers of primal needs and desires using secondary persona research, although you’ll need to be much more of a ninja about doing this. Basically, if you aren’t paying for user data through primary persona research, you may have to go “undercover” using secondary resources.

What do we mean by this? Some examples of secondary research that you can conduct include researching social media fan pages and analytics to find common user behaviors and interests, dissecting existing case studies, and spending a lot of time where your potential customers “hang out.” Where your customers spend a majority of their time will tell you the most about their interests. For example, if you know that a major facet of one of your customer demographics spends a lot of their time browsing a certain website, you should explore that website as well. Analyze the tone of the site, the variety of needs of its visitors and how it addresses them, and how the visitors potentially interact with each other. On top of “ninja” style methods of research, you can also survey your social media audience with tools such as SurveyMonkey.

After getting to “know” your customers as if you are longtime friends, you will have a much better idea of the major persona types that you can separate your audience into. A good persona formula involves coming up with 3-5 different personas which represent your most significant user groups. This will be the easiest, most fun and effective way to create user personas for your mobile app brand.

 

Essential Creation Process

Creating your personas is the process of putting together all of the primary and/or secondary persona research that you’ve already conducted. This is the point in which you’ll actually build your characters.

For this process, you’ll want to note the following points…

  • Clearly explain what your personas want most from your mobile app’s experience (dig deeper than just “boredom” or “entertainment” and instead explore deep-rooted beliefs, values and problems)
  • Understand your personas’ greatest frustrations, which are so often the driving factor behind many successful mobile apps
  • Describe your personas’ careers, hobbies, spending habits, demographics, upbringing and lifestyle
  • Detail technical abilities and relationship with technology
  • Assign a picture and name to each of your personas so that you liken this write-up to a real person
  • List out apps that your personas already use
  • Create a clear visual representation with all of these details listed for each character so that your entire organization understands exactly who you’re building relationships with

Now it’s time to compile it all in a neat document. This can sometimes be a challenge. If you need help, we highly recommend you consider using the nifty tool MakeMyPersona.com. They can help you compose the right elements into a customizable word document.

UXLady offers a similar approach to creating user personas. Source: UX-lady.com
UXLady offers a similar approach to creating user personas. Source: UX-lady.com

 

3 Core Persona Building Tips

1. Think about what a “successful use” of your app looks like for different personas

For example, one valuable persona of Snapchat is the celebrity persona, who uses the app almost entirely to market their business or brand image to millions of users via “Snap Stories.” Meanwhile, the average Snapchat persona probably views sending a single picture Snap to 10 close friends as a successful use of the app. You should always take your own app’s multiple “successful uses” into consideration when building user personas.

2. Utilize app analytics

Persona research is not just limited to before your app is launched. Once your mobile app is live on the App Store or Google Play Store, you’ll have a crucial opportunity to further understand and edit your personas from your own users’ data. Utilizing a UX app analytics tool like Appsee will allow you to collect some of the best information that’s available to both mobile app start-up teams and competitive corporations.

3. Design for your users and not for yourself

Since you will be using your personas in the design of your UX, it’s important that you separate your personal interests from the interests of your users. This is called eliminating self-referential design, not designing for yourself, or simply removing your ego from your mobile app business.

Unfortunately, many mobile app industry professionals (and entrepreneurs in general) assume that they know what their customers want without analyzing hard evidence. Entire mobile app businesses are constantly being built based off of these self-centered assumptions, and they eventually fail, or at least waste tons of money. One of the greatest selling points of building user personas for your app is that you will be focusing strictly on user interests, maintaining a user-centric mindset, which will help you build your app’s UX with empathy. This will ultimately put your organization on the path towards real success.

 

Persona Mistakes to Avoid

1. Assuming too much about your users

If you don’t eliminate assumptions, you could end up assigning unrealistic characteristics to your personas, often without even thinking about doing this. People aren’t always ideal, and they aren’t always going to act logically or methodically to every aspect of your mobile app. You have to take your customers’ real-life emotions, frustrations and everyday issues into consideration when forming real user personas.

2. Forgetting that each persona represents a large group of users

While each of your personas should have their own name and background story, it’s important to remember that each persona represents an entire group of your app’s users. While each persona should be detailed, there won’t be a 100% accurate persona that represents every single user from that group. You have to allow for variance in your personas and adapt accordingly.

3. Not being open to changing your personas

Creating personas is an ongoing process that will exist for as long as your mobile brand is around. To make the most of your personas, you will have to be open to changes in user behavior, interests, and technological trends. You can always edit the details of your personas whenever it’s most appropriate.

 

Conclusion

While your persona characters will be innately imaginary, they will represent real people who actually want to receive the greatest user experience possible from your mobile app.

If you conduct the right research, glean as much data as possible, be mindful of common persona mistakes, and organize your findings clearly and logically, then we’re confident that you’ll be able to create high-value personas that can effectively aid you in your user retention and engagement.