Google’s marketing managers shares how her and her team created the app Primer, using the principles of user-centric design to create a useful mobile application.

When we are creating a piece of technology — whether that be a travel application or a portal for a health care provider, there’s one place where we have to start: solving a problem for the user. We can create slick designs that get a lot of initial downloads, but if users, however, do not find the app useful and an essential part of their daily life, we did not do our job.

In a new Think With Google article, entitled  “Mobile App Development: How to Create a Useful App,” Bethany Poole, Google’s marketing manager, outlines how her team created the app Primer, which teaches the user a marketing tenet in less than five minutes, by prioritizing user user-centric design.

When we talk about ‘user-centric design,’ we are talking about the process of internalizing the needs, desires, and limitations of the intended users. It is more than just creating personas; it is about being able to empathize with a particular problem a group has and working towards providing a solution to improve someone’s life.

The team’s first task was to find out why a vast majority of professionals did not spend any time with self-development. “At first, we received the obvious answers about the lack of time and frustration with learning options,” says the article. “We kept digging until we landed on a deeper user insight: People viewed education as something so far removed from their everyday lives that they found it difficult to get into a learning mindset.”

As a result, the research told the creators that the users would use the app when they were open to learning something new, which would be during downtime. When working on the application, the team had these four principles in mind when working on the app.

“Think like the user, then design the user experience.”

As the team started to create the feature list for Primer, they came up with three different types of users. These user groups include users who needed specific lessons, users who wanted to learn about marketing but didn’t know what they specifically wanted to learn, and users who just wanted to browse.

With these three users in mind, they were able to add functionality that met each user’s needs. The team came up with a search feature that allowed users to find information quickly, generalized content for those who wanted to learn but didn’t know exactly what, and then a “featured” section for those who are just browsing.

“Remember that users are people, not demographics.”

At the heart of Primer is a tool any business professional could use to gain information on marketing. Meaning, the team needed to create the app, using business-centric demographics. Their initial thought was to focus on the startup community.

After launching the MVP, however, the team saw more people outside the startup community utilizing the app. As a result, the team then had to revamp the content on the screen to include lessons and features that would benefit all entrepreneurs — both inside and outside the startup world.

“When promoting an app, consider all the situations in which it could be useful.”

App creators cannot account for all the ways an app might be used at the start of the project. When Facebook was first launched, Mark Zuckerberg saw the platform as a college directory, where students could get to know people in their classes. Now, the platform has grown into a much larger entity. People from all over the world can connect in one place, share information, see what people are talking about, allow loved ones to know they are safe in natural disasters, and more.

When the team at Google started working on Primer, the basic understanding of the app’s value was providing a way a professional brush up on their marketing skills on a regular basis. However, the app proved to be something else too: “we realized that many users viewed Primer as a way to pass the time without wasting time.” While that may sound like a bit of a silly marketing angle, it worked. The team soon looked for free moments the users had free time and wanted a great distraction.

“Keep working on the utility of the app even after launch.”

One thing you can forget when you initiate an app is the sheer fact that you can never stop building and improving your creation. Like in all aspects of software development, it is an iterative process. This strategy includes improving the user experience by continuing to refine the app and making sure it is “increasing[ly] useful and relevant to our audience.”