Persona-Oriented Mobile App Design and Development


No matter how similar users may seem at first glance, there are always some crucial differences between them that stem directly from their different needs, and different problems they are trying to solve with your app.

Regardless of whether your app is already alive or you just started thinking about its development, at some point you will have to characterize different groups of users you’d like to attract with your product. Personas are one tool you should seriously consider when doing marketing research and today I would like to share with you how they can work in a case study.

A Need to Get to Know Your User

Think your users are “young professional urban women,” “tech-savvy millennials,” or−worst case scenario−“humankind in general”? Think again. Try this instead: “young professional urban women, interested in pole dance and in need of finding the nearest studio” vs. “young professional urban women who are marketing consultants pole dance instructors on the lookout for new career opportunities.” See what I did there?

If your product is a digital marketplace where users can buy, sell, and swap second hand clothing, some people will be more willing to buy, others will be more into swapping, while still others will rather sell their clothing. Therefore, your app and its features will have to address and fulfill certain different needs. For buyers, efficient browsing of the inventory will be the most important feature, whereas sellers will care more about ease of uploading new items. Swappers will consider both of those functions necessary.

Having a better understanding of your users allows you to examine how they align with your business goals and monetization model. This exercise should make it more clear what direction ought the app evolve in, which design elements still need improvement, how you should market your app, what PR activities could help you reach to your target group, etc.

What Is This Persona Anyway?

So what exactly is this persona I keep mentioning? It’s an abstraction, a representation of a particular user group.

Even though a persona is an abstract, it should be fleshed out in a very detailed manner. It means you should be able to talk about your personas as if you were describing your closest friends: you know what they look like, where they live, you know their passions, you follow their professional trajectory, you are also familiar with their dreams, plans, and problems. As an app designer, one should be able to discuss a wide variety of users in this way. Again, don’t think “young professional urban women,” think: “Judy, 28, living in San Francisco.” Get even deeper: is she single or in a relationship? Does she have kids? What does her day look like? What is her annual income? Is she an outdoorsy person or maybe she prefers staying at home? What kind of apps does she enjoy? What are her best−and worst−experiences when it comes to mobile technology?

What is more, If you already have an app, then over the course of development you must have realized that some of your prospective users will not necessarily fit your target group: the costs they generate may exceed the revenue they bring in (e.g. due to additional customer support). Therefore, not all personas are created equal−some you will most definitely want to acquire, while others will be rather far from what you consider your target group.

The Perfect App Experience in the Golden Age of TV

To give you something more than just theoretical deliberations, let’s see some examples of using personas when thinking about app design. in real life situations.

As already disclosed in our Ingredients for a Remarkable TV Experience post, we spent a decent time of winter holidays, catching up with our favourite TV series and movies. However, all that time we couldn’t help but wonder “What should the perfect TV experience look like?”, which also led us to the additional big question: “How different people use TV and what are they expectations towards it?” Thinking about different needs and different approaches when watching TV, we designed Future TV app that should address them.

Let the App Reveal More About the User’s Persona

For most of us, setting up the TV experience is a pretty dull task. Even though some of the platforms try to offer some degree of personalization and custom recommendations, they fail in that task pretty often, simply because they don’t know the user too well. If you are willing to create user personas and dig deeper into the issue, don’t be shy and start using the data you already have access to.

This is why we designed the welcome screen to offer the users’ an opportunity to connect their account with the social media profiles of their choice. Once the user does it, it is much easier not only to serve relevant movie and TV show suggestions, but also to better understand their needs and expectations, and to establish what kind of persona a given user represents.

Michelle Brown, 23, wanna-be designer, San Diego denizen, TV shows freak

When our first persona−Michelle Brown, 23, on a design internship at a San Diego startup−connects her Future TV account with her favorite social networks, we will be able to collect a lot of additional data about her social life, hobbies, movies she loves and TV shows she watches on a regular basis. All this data makes it easier to furnish her with relevant recommendations and suggest a new TV show that might just turn out to be her new favorite.

Onboarding utilizing social logins

By analyzing her online behavior, Facebook likes, and any additional data she agreed to share, we can conclude that Michelle, just like all her friends, eagerly follows all the latest lifestyle and media trends. She never watches TV alone: even if she is physically alone in the room, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t communicate with her friends using social networks and text messaging to discuss the plot or the choices made by protagonist. She is young and single, so she has a lot of free time on her hands which she spends watching a lot of TV shows and movies. She is not that into news, but from time to time she gets the feeling that she needs to get up to date with what’s going on in the world and then she switches the channel to cable news, though for not too long.

Instant Recommendations

Having all this knowledge about Michelle, we are able to offer her recommendations that suit her and should satisfy her combined needs for being up-to-date with the latest world events and pop culture highlights.

Chris Denney, 28, a business analyst from New York, American football fan

But let’s consider another set of digital traces and construct a different persona: the 28-year-old Chris Denney, a business analyst in New York, who, just like his friends, is very interested in American football.

Because of his digital traces, we know that Chris follows the American football league religiously and basically doesn’t watch anything else. He shares this passion with a couple of his male friends. They try to go out every now and then to watch the games together over a glass of beer, although they’re usually too busy or too tired after work and choose to stay at their homes, sharing their observations and comments on Twitter.

Having Chris’ needs on mind you can think that he should be a heavy user of Shared Experience feature, which allows one to experience their favourite TV program while observing reactions, sharing emotions, and discussing in real time with their friends.


Jeremy McDougall, 54, business owner, family guy

When designing the Future TV app, we also concluded that for some people watching TV with their friends and relatives is as natural as breathing. However, we have all been there and know how easily the idea of “watching something together” devolves into a heated argument about differences in taste. Looking for that one particular title that will suit everyone gathered in front of the TV is also, more often than not, a waste of time.

Social media consumption was the reason we decided to design the third persona, Jeremy McDougall, a 54-year-old married small business owner, who has a pretty large family and enjoys having his relatives visit for the holidays or over the weekends.

Having Jeremy’s needs in mind, we designed a special feature that allows for device pairing. Thanks to this new feature the users can see how similar their tastes are and receive relevant group recommendation that will suit both their preferences and mood. Thereofore, when his step-daughter, Michelle, who you already know as a persona who watches a lot, is visiting family for holidays, she can easily find out what should the whole family watch, so the different tastes of her siblings and cousins will be satisfied. Device Pairing

Using Personas to Design the Future TV app

Knowing your targeted personas makes the design process more rooted in reality and allows you not to guess what and how should the app look like and function. Once you start doing your research and get familiar with your personas, your decisions down the line will always be easier, since they won’t be based on guesswork but will be a logical conclusion stemming from consistent ideas and data that support them. What is more, when thinking about new approach, new functionality or redesign you will be able to always ask yourself which persona needs are you trying to satisfy and whether you are focusing on the most important (as in: profitable) ones, or maybe you are trying to avoid the hard decisions by focusing on irrelevant personas that shouldn’t be at your radar either way.

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