How to Create User Personas for a Mobile Application

User personas are a fundamental part of the user experience (UX) design process. To ensure you’re delivering the best experience for your target audience, you should create user personas before developing a mobile app. One of the most common mistakes business owners make when building an app is they often assume they know what their customers want.

But the only way to learn what are the motivations and goals of your customers is through user research and the development of comprehensive user personas. Once you know who your target audience is, you’ll have enough validated data to guide your UX design decisions.

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How to Create User Personas

What Is a User Persona?

A user persona (or buyer or marketing persona) is a fictional, yet realistic, portrayal of the most important user group. Designers use them during the design and development process to implement solutions based on the understanding of what your customers want.

Step into the shoes of your target customers to understand user needs, motivations, and expectations. A solid understanding of your main user groups is the cornerstone to designing an efficient and useful app.

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Why Do You Need a User Persona?

You need to know who your end user is and how they interact with your product to be able to create a relevant and engaging product. If you don't have an established target audience and know little about your consumers, chances are that much of your time and money spent on app development will go to waste.

When you build your app with personas in mind, you’re able to create personalized experiences that resonate with target users.

According to a 2019 Econsultancy report, delivering personalized customer journeys has:

  • Improved retention rates (cited by 51% of respondents)
  • Increased lifetime value, due to repeat visits, personalized marketing, and the trust of the individual (cited by 45%)
  • Increased sales (cited by 41%)

Marketing personas are invaluable during the product design process. They are an inherent part of your mobile app marketing strategy, helping you communicate your vision and ensure that you deliver a consistent message across all of your communication channels.

How Do You Write a Persona Profile?

Before writing a persona profile, conduct a substantial amount of both quantitative and qualitative user research. User research and user interviews will give you validated learning about your preferred users.

To create an ideal user persona, try using the Pareto principle — a persona should represent the 20% of your users that use 80% of your product features, or a persona should account for 80% of your revenue.

Conducting customer research is a crucial part of ux design
Creating marketing personas should involve internal and external stakeholders. Source

The team at the Nielsen Norman Group emphasizes the significance of involving all stakeholders (internal and external) in the research process. Most importantly, talk to your customers — send emails, surveys, hop on calls, or even organize a focus group.

Thereafter, synthesize the gathered data in a concise document. Aim to create a single page that ensures all team members have the end user in mind while designing the app.

How Do I Create a User Persona Template?

Creating a user persona template is an important step in UX design and can help you stay organized. 

When in doubt, start with premade templates. A quick Google search can help you find the best ones for your specific industry, but there are a couple of points to keep in mind:

  • Have a constant metric across different user personas to facilitate the comparison process
  • Start with the basics (demographics, pain points, and goals) and brainstorm on other important attributes 
  • Choose a design that reflects the user persona but keep the overall layout consistent between different user groups
  • Visualize persona information in a more tangible and memorable way
  • Include any helpful and relevant information but avoid adding details that won’t affect the design process

What Should Be Included in a Persona?

Creating user personas will help you identify and empathize with your audience. But how you create buyer personas varies depending on your industry.

For example, if you’re in a B2B setting, you’ll probably be interested in your user’s role. On the other hand, a consumer-facing company might focus on their age, habits, and preferences.

An example of a user persona template
 A sample user persona. Source

What’s important to remember when creating a user persona is that it doesn’t have to be an overly detailed user persona. You can use only some of the characteristics and personality traits from below. It all depends on your business, industry, and relevancy of the information to UX design decisions. For example, marital status won’t always be necessary to include.

A basic customer persona might include:

Persona name 

Get creative and think of a memorable customer archetype. For instance, if your user group isn’t tech savvy you could call them “Dinosaur Dave,” whereas a more experienced user may be called “Sophisticated Simon.”

Photo

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Search for suitable photos on stock image websites and try to capture the users’ personality, age, and gender.

Demographic data 

Use age, gender, income, location, marital status, or any other characteristic that is relevant for your business. 

Goals, motivations, and needs

Think of the main motivations and needs that drive your customers. What is the end goal that users want to achieve by using your app? 

Pain points and frustrations

Customer pain points should influence your design decisions more than any other attribute. Think of the main issues users face that urge them to find a solution. How you deliver that solution will be based on your understanding of their pain points.

Lifestyle factors and behaviors

Understand how users perceive certain features within your app and how their circumstances shape their behavior.

What Is an Example of a Persona?

By now you’re probably wondering what a UX persona example looks like. Let’s imagine that you’re developing a user persona for a food delivery app. 

A great example here would be Healthy Heather, a busy millennial who doesn’t have time to cook. Eating healthy and being informed about nutrition is one of her main motivators.

Here is an example of how you would fill out a user persona template for Healthy Heather:

Persona name

Healthy Heather

Photo

For Heather, you could use a stock image representing a woman in her mid-twenties.

Demographic data 

Heather is a single gal in her 20s who orders food frequently due to her busy schedule.

Goals, motivations, and needs

She wants healthy, fast, and local options.

Pain points and frustrations

Heather wants to know more about the nutritional facts of the food she orders.

Lifestyle factors and behaviors

She wants a simple and quick way to have healthy food delivered to her.

Example of a user persona for a food mobile app
Example of a user persona for a food delivery mobile app.

What Are The Different Types of Personas?

UX designers have developed a few different persona types depending on the context: 

Proto Personas

Proto personas are created by brainstorming, making assumptions about your users, and relying on already existing data. You put together all that you have learned from interacting with people during development, e.g, which features work well, how much information should go into each screen — without doing any additional research.

Qualitative Personas

Recently teams are finding more success creating personas after running qualitative research. Given that this approach relies on user data, it’s seen as the most accurate. However, remember to keep your sample size as large and diverse as possible to ensure the answers are relevant.

Statistical Personas

Statistical personas are a mix of qualitative and quantitative research coming together to form the user persona. To identify the survey questions, you first need to do some exploratory qualitative research beforehand. Creating a statistical persona might require some effort, but the details this type of research brings make this survey worth it.

Engaging Personas

Engaging personas involve a more holistic approach that emphasizes storytelling and includes a 3D rendering of the user. They should be fleshed out by including details about their emotions, social background, and psychology.

Engaging personas give designers more than enough material to work with when creating an experience. This strategy has been proven effective not only in process improvement but also in delivering better products overall.

Goal-Directed Personas

Goal-directed personas focus on the approach and process a user would take to solve their specific problem. By defining several high-level scenarios that dictate how your persona would behave, you can start outlining the preferred user journey to achieve their objectives.

The goal-directed user persona approach is most effective when its three parts are used together.
Elements of a goal-oriented persona. Source

Role-Based Personas

A role-based persona understands a person’s role within an organization, and how that affects their behavior. This user profile aims to broaden out the view from a purely goal-directed perspective to one that looks at how job function and environment could impact their decision making.

Each of these approaches has its own benefits and drawbacks. The key to using any methodology for creating a persona is that it should fit your needs and be easy enough to maintain so you can make decisions with confidence.

What Makes a Good Persona for a Digital Product?

There's no single answer to that question.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating your user persona groups:

  • Make sure your persona has as many details as possible about their background and lifestyle 
  • Base your persona on extensive research backed by data and/or observation
  • Focus on how users interact with your product now instead of focusing on how they’ll interact with it in the future
  • Strive to real behaviors instead of idealized actions a consumer may make
  • Most of all — ensure that your user persona reflects data from your consumers instead of your own assumptions about the target market and their behaviors

A Buyer Persona Can Help Build Relatable UX Designs

User personas are crucial for app development because they let you empathize with and truly understand your users. The more you understand who will be using your app, the better you’ll be at designing something that meets their inherent needs. 

According to research by Acquia, 76% of respondents will switch to a competitor even if they’ve only had a single bad experience with a brand they usually like. Avoid becoming a negative statistic and start mapping out your marketing personas for better efficacy in product or service design.

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