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BLOG: It can be pretty difficult guessing how consumers will use a mobile app without being able to see it firsthand

Lorinda Brandon, Director of Strategy at Smartbear Software | Feb. 20, 2013
It can be pretty difficult guessing how consumers will use a mobile app without being able to see it firsthand.

Unfortunately, we can't define an After-Hours Persona that matches a profession. One sys-admin may check his notifications in a loud bar while his colleague is checking his notifications while quietly rocking his baby to sleep. In the end, we have to rely on our basic knowledge of life and being human to piece that part of the puzzle together. So, what to do?

  • Don't make the same assumptions for your mobile app that you do for your web/desktop app. This is particularly true for navigation and workflow, which have to be refined to singular tasks on a mobile device. While users may love configurable interfaces and multiple pathways around a product on their computers, those same concepts are often intolerable on a phone or tablet.

  • Watch the people around you. We're surrounded by people interacting with their mobile devices everywhere we go - restaurants, movie theaters, football games, parties. Your "Follow Me Home" moment is all around you. As a software professional, you are in a unique position these days to view your whole personal life as a usability study. What are these folks doing and how happy are they doing it?

  • Download, download, download. I download all kinds of apps all the time, even when they have no real direct use for me. I like to see how other apps have solved hard problems. Or, even better, how they haven't solved them. It's all learning. And I mess around with those apps in all kinds of situations - when I'm traveling, when I'm relaxing, when I'm working.

  • Understand that traditional personas are only one part of the spectrum. Every one of your users really has a 360-degree persona that you have to be aware of. You may not be able to define them as easily as you could the traditional persona, but acknowledging that there is more to worry about than there used to be is half the battle.

If I could give a word of advice to the users, too, it would be this: be patient and provide feedback. It's a brave new world for us software geeks, and sometimes we can't run fast enough to keep up with it. But if we don't hear from you about what works and what doesn't, we can only build apps that fit our own personas rather than yours.


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