Using Customer-Centered Design to Build Better Products for Mobile App Developers

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Kevin Ford

September 22nd, 2015

One of the most important parts of design is working with your customers/users, and bringing them front-and-center in the product development process. At NativeX, we create mobile monetization tools, so mobile app developers are involved throughout the process of developing our products. We consider them a partner in the design and development of systems that will meet their needs.

Getting feedback from partners and validating our ideas with them is a key component. Before we build anything in a project, we engage directly with our partners in a needfinding phase. The goal of needfinding is to uncover pain points, current work practices, and opportunities for design to improve the status quo. From observing and speaking with app developers, we create design personas, which are descriptions of who users are and the issues they face.


After customer interviews on enhanced reporting, we found that our users at mobile agencies and large mobile app development studios create their own dashboards and manually aggregate their data across different ad networks. They mentioned having to log into multiple ad network self service portals, download and copy the data to their own spreadsheets. Through understanding their work process, we’re better able to design a more robust solution.

Personas are a useful tool for reminding anyone who touches the product internally to think of the user. Other tools we use to formulate the end-to-end user experience are service design blueprints, which take us through a user journey and the lifecycle of product usage. These blueprints describe the user’s intention at different stages of encountering the product/service and their touchpoints with technology or other people (e.g. customer support specialist).

We also create interactive prototypes which also serve a design specification internally. A side effect of having this degree of richness in our prototypes is the ability to quickly run our ideas by users. We conduct internal tests and remote usability tests where we have participants walk through tasks using our system. During these sessions, we encourage them to “think aloud” – vocalize their thought process, what they’re trying to do, what they find confusing. Through testing with real users, we gain valuable feedback on what they find is lacking or confusing that we couldn’t anticipate ourselves.

One of our findings from user testing our Self Service was that publishers wanted a way to better compare performance of their placements – points in the app where players are shown ads. What’s interesting is how participants expressed this desire in different ways.

“How can I segment my data so I know which ads are performing better at which times?” and “I want a single place where I can go and see the KPIs for my apps and the types of ads shown.” As a researcher sometimes you have to read between the lines.


The image above shows the placement filter on reports, which people had trouble finding

It turns out this functionality existed as an option in reports, but users were not able to find it easily. As a result of these findings, we redesigned the Self Service Placement Manager to show two KPIs (revenue and eCPM) for each placement and set Placements as the default filter on reports.


Redesigned placement manager

Continuously gathering feedback in the design process and iterating will ensure you are building the right thing. Applying a customer-centered approach to designing and creating products mitigates risk and results in better products and services.

If you’re interested in trying out the new NativeX Self Service with your app, sign up for an account here.

Kevin Ford

Marketing Manager


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