How to create a user persona? 5-steps guide for mobile app creators
How to create an app that is perfectly tailored to users' needs? This is a question asked by every individual who has created or wants to create a software product for their customers. An app that perfectly meets users’ needs means a profitable product for your business. So the point is to define the target group — people who are using/will use your app — and find a solution for their needs. Pretty simple but not without the research.
Things you have to define and understand to fit your product to users needs are primarily:
- who they are,
- what their motivations and goals are,
- what problems they have.
Why you need mobile app user personas
Creating user personas is a simple exercise to make this process easier. In fact, the best idea is to create a couple of user personas that represent different types of your target audience. In case you already run a business and have a product, user personas will describe your best customers (existing users who have a problem you know exactly how to solve and you successfully do it, those who spend the most time using the app etc.). On the other hand, if the product is your new business idea, to create user personas you’ll need to describe perfect customers you’d like to have, an ideal type of users.
To do this, it's best to get into users’ heads, determine the preferences of your target audience as accurately as possible, preferably through deep research, and use this data to guide the development of your app. To create a persona, all you need is a simple piece of paper (or our template) or document on your computer. If you’d like to use our example user persona template, jump to resources and enjoy the easy way to organise your work.
Step-by-step guide on creating a user persona
Think about these few things (defining 2-4 personas should be enough):
You need to make your user persona description to know who they are. Some of the characteristics might seem unnecessary or will in fact turn out to be redundant but this is an example template that we tested and use it ourselves. It helps to determine the personas, their personalities and habits. You can put anything you find useful here.
These basics would be:
- Name — it’s a small thing but it will help you feel that this is a real person with their personality.
- Occupation — this might be crucial information about the users of your app depending on the characteristics of the product. Sometimes it’s not about the specific occupation but maybe you can find a particular dependency that will point the way to finding other information about a persona.
- Age — consider the age or age range of your persona. If the users (or perfect examples of users) are of different ages, the best idea would be to put different age groups in different personas as they probably have different needs.
- Location — mobile apps and other solutions are very rarely developed for users from all over the world. Normally you can define or at least estimate their location to gather information about cultural background etc. What’s also particularly important is for example that people living in big cities have different habits than those living in small towns.
There are many other factors you can take into account and use to create a user persona like gender and marital status and other demographic data, that would be important for this particular product. It all depends on your idea/product's detailed features.
All this will also be helpful later, i.e. when planning marketing activities. For example if you know that the person works approximately till 5.00 PM and gets back home by train, you can realize when is the best time for advertising.
For each section let’s find an example to make it easier for you to create a user persona based on this article. If we’d like to build a habit tracker app, the information from step 1 could look like this:
Name: Maggie Smith
Occupation: project manager
Marital status: single.
A particularly good idea is to give your user personas some back stories. It will help you define their needs, pains and motivations but also give a feeling of what they like. Questions to find answers for would be:
- What is their everyday life like?
- What do they do in their spare time?
- What kind of personality do they have?
I’d like to create an app to track habits and help people organise their everyday life. The user persona is a project manager and even though deals great with project management at work, has little free time and has trouble managing it. They live in a big city, they’re well organized but busy and aren't very strong-willed.
Another example of a user persona can have their daily routine like going to work and cooking dinner and keep forgetting about other duties and goals they have set themselves. The user would like to drink more water and start exercising more often to lose some weight but it’s also hard for them to motivate themselves. In their free time they like watching movies and playing video games. That’s how we can find some information about goals (drink more water, start exercising, manage their free time better), motivations (losing weight, live a healthier life, have a better organized day) and needs (a tool to remind them about these things and help to plan their day including things they enjoy doing).
Another user persona would be someone who already tried a similar solution — tried to track their habits and organise activities — but it wasn’t successful. In this case our task would be to create a better tool than the ones they already used. To do that, an important information is why they couldn't meet their goals and gave up on tracking their habits. Was it the lack of motivation? Or maybe the app didn’t meet their expectations? If so, what did the competitors miss?
Another thing to consider, already mentioned above, are the goals of your user personas. Your task will be to help them meet all or part of these goals. Get inside your user's head and understand how they think, understand their real needs and the end goal they want to achieve. Answer these questions about your users:
- What do they want to achieve (in the short and long term)?
- What are their plans?
- What are the barriers preventing them from achieving their goals?
- What will achieving the goal result in?
- Why do they want to achieve it?
With that, you’ll understand what features your app should have to really help your users.
They aim to change their habits for the better. They want to easily plan their day, taking all the activities into account. Specifically, maybe they’d like to receive reminders about their duties (for example a notification about drinking water 5 times a day, a reminder to start exercising at 5.00 PM).
In conclusion, the general objective for our users is to change their habits to live a better life. Our task is to help them reach their goals and remove barriers with our solution. For example, the direct objective the app needs to fulfill is to provide the ability to create a habits list, a calendar, reminders and notifications.
Motivations and needs
Understanding users’ motivations might be crucial in finding the best tailor-made solution for them. Even though they’re using the same product, your users can have different needs and be motivated by different factors. That’s also why the best idea will be to create a couple of user personas and to take different motivations and needs into account.
On the same example (habit tracker app) you can get answers for these questions:
- What helps/would help them achieve their goals? — A notification telling them to execute a particular activity now might be something that would directly affect the changes in user's behavior, for example: “Exercise for 10 minutes now to burn 100 calories”, for instance.
- What motivates them? — The vision of “future me” could be a nice motivation. When a user wants to change their habits to lead a healthy life, we should show them a vision of their happy and healthy life with the new good habits.
Just like this, find a motivation for every need of your user persona, and then find a feature for each motivation.
Pain points and frustrations
You want to solve users’ problems with your product. What are the main issues your personas face? What frustrates them? Once you identify your users’ pains it’s easy to think of a solution. Then, it’s just a matter of creativity to put it into your product with particular features. Let’s put examples of problems and solutions together:
- “I have really bad habits” — Creating an app that will help the user get rid of them,
- “I forget about certain activities” — Putting appropriate notifications in the app to remind the user about them,
- “Even if I remember, I don’t have the motivation to do it” — Introducing the user with motivational content.
If you want to have a better chance of creating a successful app, always look from the perspective of your customers, their needs and problems to solve. Don't rely on your assumptions. Create a user persona and do the competitors analysis to build a successful product for your business.