Mobile User A.D.D. and Why Tiered Personas Matter

Fifty percent of Americans own and use a smart phone. Twenty two percent of Americans own a tablet. You can’t go a day without encountering hundreds of mobile devices. (Try it. It’s impossible unless you live in a cave.) The on-the-go American is the only kind of American you’ll see. Such extroversion and urgency is prized in our startup-obsessed culture that will continue to grow into a more attention drained, divided audience for every business out there.

You developed Jane, your key persona, one year ago and since she’s consistently moved smoothly down your conversion funnel when she’s on her MacBook, but when she’s on her iPad engagement drops to an all-time low. You spent hours researching and understanding her. It’s unfathomable why she loves you on her laptop and hates you on her iPad. You have the perfect persona for her. Your entire team lives and breathes Jane, yet you’re failing to engage her. What gives?

Truth be told, if Jane is on her iPad, it means her son is with her. Double whammy—you’re dealing with mobile A.D.D. of a successful, effective, on the go mompreneur and a four year old. No conversion funnel can combat that…or can it?

Although I detest the phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” my dad drilled this into me as a kid and in this case I agree. If you can’t “beat” the mobile user mentality by changing this behavior to match the slightly less A.D.D. nature of your desktop user, you better start developing tiered personas (that is, personas with multiple plausible user case scenarios) to match Jane when she’s at home on her laptop, Jane when she’s on her iPad and Jane when she’s on the subway using her iPhone. It’s a triple threat that will either take you down or lift you up. Bottom line, you don’t have to combat it by pushing your primary persona in a direction she doesn’t want to go. Instead map out different plausible user case scenarios and build with these varying behaviors in mind.

Dad never let me get away with drama and always said, “What you resist persists.” Immerse yourself in the world of a user who engages differently across devices. This isn’t a hassle, it’s a luxury.  You have an opportunity to engage the same users with multiple touch points and in different manners. The action of “sharing” might be a hard sell on your website, however when on the iPad, Jane might be in a more social mentality and catching her on her “honeymoon period” with your brand while on the iPad might be the perfect sharing opportunity. Bam, you’ve increased virality without ever paying for a new user.

Keep in mind mobile A.D.D. comes in three flavors. Compliments of Eric Korsch (, we have a simple breakdown of the three kinds behaviors of mobile users:

  1. Multi-Tasking  Jane might be texting her colleague to let her know she’s running five minutes late, looking up the time of her son’s baseball game and accessing your site (it’s her go-to app for her task list).
  2. Saving Time  Jane might be focused solely on your site because she’s in a hurry and trying to get things done fast.
  3. Killing Time And then we have Jane when she’s waiting in the doctor’s office and needs to kill time. She jumps on your site and spends time exploring, something she’d never do in multi-tasking mode.

Simple, right? Break it down for each key user. Whiteboard it out to bring your entire team on the same page as to which Jane you’re really dealing with. Don’t let the era of mobile A.D.D. get the best of you; turn a challenge into a serious competitive advantage and give your users the experience they need to help you succeed.

Sources: MediaPost, Engadget, TechCrunch


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