Defining the User Persona Archetype in App DevelopmentWritten by Seamgen
The term “user personas” or “user archetypes” often conjures up images of documents that describe the characteristics of an simulated person. However, it’s more than just a description; it’s an illustration that allows designers and developers to create software that truly benefits someone’s life in a meaningful way.
While there are many variables, when we sit down with a prospective client, we ask these two things: “Who are your targeted users?” and “How would they use your product?” From these two questions, we begin to cultivate a mindset that we are not building the product for ourselves. We are creating the product for the end user — leaving a designer’s biases behind and egos in check.
How do we get from not creating a product for ourselves to creating a product for the user? It takes time and effort, and we will break that down for you.
User persona profiles
User persona profiles have the core, specific function of illustrating the user in detail, from how they might use a product to why they’re using it in the first place and what led them to that moment. Examining ancillary items around a user’s habits and daily life influences design decisions and allows app developers to “get inside the head” of the people using their product.
These users are not market segments, actual users, or even roles. A persona profile is an outline, typically a one-page document, describing the attitudes, beliefs, needs and wants of a user archetype. Multiple personas, complete with their own unique set of qualities and names, are used to inform the design process.
“Each persona archetype represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables the designer to focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals,” said Sholmw Goltz of Smashing Magazine. “Personas aid designers to create different designs for different kinds of people and to design for a specific somebody, rather than a generic everybody.”
The goal is to humanize the end user and allow the designer to consider other factors surrounding that personified user’s interaction with the app. Factors that go into creating a persona include age, demographic, income, tech savviness, type of devices they use, car they drive, occupation and what they like to do in their free time.
The backstory of the user persona
Alan Cooper, an American software designer and programmer, has been credited with coming up with the term and usage of user personas in the early 80s. During his lunchtime walks on a nearby golf course in Monterey California, he would play out a user interacting with the software he was creating in his mind.
“I found that this play-acting technique was remarkably effective for cutting through complex design questions of functionality and interaction, allowing me to see clearly what was necessary and unnecessary and, more importantly, to differentiate between what was frequently used and what was needed only infrequently,” said Cooper.
This playful acting and brainstorming put the future users of his software at the forefront in the design process. After Cooper moved into a consulting position in 1995, he discovered that doing thorough research on users would lead to better software, and the user persona archetype was born.
How does a user archetype fit into the app development process?
Cooper’s ideas evolved into goal-directed software methodology. This subset of user-centered design merges several disciplines (such as strategic planning, ethnography, and market research) to address a business needs, the bandwidth of a development team, and user goals.
At a high level, the practice of merging these thoughts places users through a journey of solving a problem and empower the user to solve a problem through your application.
As with any great story, there is a set of core components that drive a narrative and make a story worth reading. There are three components that we need to keep in mind when creating a complete persona profile:
As the protagonist of the story, this individual controls the software. Like we’ve talked about in this article, they have a specific attitudes, motivations, goals, and pain points.
End user goals
These are objectives that the ‘persona’ needs to fulfill by using a piece of software. If you liken this device to the ‘journey,’ these goals are what the ‘hero’ is working towards, and the software enables them to accomplish the task at hand.
The scenarios act as the narrative in which the ‘persona’ operates. These devices are written and thought of in the first person, and address the when, where, and how of the story.’
Now you know all about user persona archetypes and the role they play in developing any piece of software, from web and mobile apps to cloud platforms and more. Next, we need to realize that user archetypes are an integral part of the design process. They help us develop an understanding of the psychology and motivations behind the appeal of a product.
Identifying the correct personas in your initial product development can maximize user adoption and improve the way your mobile product solves problems for your users. One thing to keep in mind: creating your personas is the tool that helps us create a product that truly benefits the user.
At Seamgen, we have a process of our own. While there are many ways of creating persona profiles, our process leverages knowledge of existing users and maximizes efficiency in the product build.
Here’s our seven step process:
Step 1: Collect Existing Data on Users
Before you dive into creating a mobile or web application for your business, you may have an idea of your user base demographics. Gather existing data, with anything from prior market research, information pulled from your customer relation management systems, or email marketing systems.
Step 2: Make Educated Assumptions
Once you have collected all the data, start analyzing it for trends. You need to draw on your data and begin to create conclusions of whom your users are.
The basic data points that you need to create a complete persona profile can include income, age, location, interests, etc. Using this information, start to build out a set of characters, complete needs, goals, wishes, and personalities.
If data is unavailable, you’ll need to make your own educated guess, and/or assume who you want your users to be.
Step 3: How Will Users Use Your Product?
After you have created a set of prototype personas, you now need to begin to draw out how these people are going to be using your product. Empathize with the user and highlight where pain points occur, and bring the user exactly what they want with minimal interaction.
Now, not all users are going to be equal. Since everyone has different needs, everyone will use your product differently. As a result, you will have to prioritize your personas and the features each persona will require and find most important.
Step 4: Address The Competitive Landscape
Knowing exactly what’s already out on the market is vital information. Study the competitive landscape and determine where your users are spending their time.
Examine best in class products, and identify what about these products sets them apart from their competition. What makes them great is just as important as what a user might find frustrating. What does your product do to improve these pain points and how will that impact the daily life of each one of your personified users?
Walking through these questions also allows you to figure out your potential opening in the market. When you examine the competitive landscape, look at the products through these three lenses: UX design, User Interface (UI), and communication channels.
Step 5: Form a Competitive Strategy
After you have performed your research on the competitive landscape, create a plan on how you can either fit in or stand out.
From what already exists, what are the best features your app contains? You can answer this question by breaking the features found in existing apps and tie them back to your user. By standing in their shoes, you can ask yourself these questions: Why does it matter? How will this improve your user’s day?
Step 6: Build Your Strategy
With your user in mind, you need to start breaking out the main sections of your application to evaluate and apply best practices that can be leveraged to craft an engaging UI design.
Consider the individual elements and of a typical user flow and how they can be leveraged to craft an engaging user experience. While you and your team are hard at work, you have to keep in mind what you picked up along the way. You have to ask yourself how can make a product that truly benefits your users, and create features that benefit them.
Step 7: Quality Assurance (QA) Test, Re-Test and Validate
In the design and development process, you will have times to re-engage with your personas. Engage with real people that either use your product or you think would use your product and see how they interact with it.
User acceptance testing (UAT) is one of the best ways to test the assumptions you made in the persona profiling process. By leveraging this process and applying it towards your specific industry and business goals you can take the first step toward building a user centric design approach. Examine your existing business data, study the competitive landscape, collect ideas, and take advantage of some of the proven steps towards success we’ve outlined here.
As designers and software creators, we will all have different ideas of what makes a good product. Formed from our own experiences, thoughts and tastes, we have our own biases that will subconsciously creep into the design process–without us even noticing. Creating these persona archetypes helps us inform our decision making, and create products that users love to use and benefit their lives.
Taking the time to create user personas and understanding a user at a core level will allow designers and developers to step outside themselves and become user advocates.
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