Both customization and personalization aim to provide users with a personalized product interaction experience. These two techniques focus on adapting the app to users’ unique preferences or characteristics so that every individual user is exposed to different content in functionally identical scenarios. The difference lies primarily in the intention of determining this adjustment.
Customization is always a setting adjusted by the user. The framework allows service adjustment to fit the users’ individual criteria of product interaction or just for the sake of mere fun.
Some customization types with illustrations above:
Users have the option to get what they want by customizing the interface to their needs. In a way, it is not just an app that the user owns, but one and very unique version of it. In turn, product owners will appreciate the increase in customer loyalty and customer-product relationship enhancement.
As users may lack in properly understanding their own needs, therefore, might not be motivated enough to go through the customization process in the first place. Now how many of us changed WhatsApp’s chat wallpaper? What about the Telegram’s app icon?
Increased interaction cost – customization is demanding as users have to spend a great deal of mental and physical energy for the mere purpose of preliminary set up. Therefore, not going too deep into customization is crucial. Users should not bear full responsibility for the app’s interface and appearance.
Inform your customers
Emphasizing the customization as an option is way more important than merely providing its functionality. So, make sure users know it's there, make it visible.
Hidden functionality embedded for advanced users is all cool yet barely efficient, though, this can still take place as a general setting scenario.
A handy function of Tinkoff Bank app allows moving cards between accounts. Though, the app also provides an obviously displayed alternative via account settings.
Interface settings process should be cut to absolute simplicity and be totally user-friendly. Generally, it works for any other aspect of user interaction. Clear titles should be used and the particular setting’s interface linked with the customized element.
Left to right. Raiffeisen Bank app is a great example as its “hide balance” icon is located right next to the balance. Sberbank. Online’s home screen settings used to be hidden in the general settings, yet after the recent major update, the setting is available at hand right from the home screen.
Customization becomes way more accessible, users no longer need to go through numerous burdensome steps to find it. The last example, Roketbank, features a choice of card design, depicting your card the way it will look during the payment in the Apple Wallet interface.
Settings for the sake of settings is pointless. Customization should deliver user value. It turns out that setting up your cat’s photo as a splash screen background could be way more valuable than, say, an omnipresent option to choose between list and grid view. So, dig into qualitative research since understanding what is valuable and what is not is only possible through user’s research.
Sberbank.Mobile launch screen customization examples. Functionally irrelevant, yet it benefits the emotional perception of the product.
Many users are glad to try out the custom settings, yet many of them would prefer getting back to default, which is an option that should always be available.
Sberbank, Tinkoff Bank and Roketbank feature the “Back to default” option that allows users to undo all the changes they applied.
When integrating customization or personalisation, if possible, make sure that the user is always the one to initiate the setting, therefore customization value will be perceived by a limited scope of users, which is not the case for personalisation that does not presume user initiation.
Though, for these few, the value of customization will be way higher as it is always a pleasure to be the owner of the app’s unique version. Otherwise customizing the messenger app name with manually pasted unicode symbols would never occur, yet it does.
Implemented by the system, not the user. Developers apply a user identification system and provide personalized content, experience or functionality that corresponds to the user's individual profile. Personalization may occur directly to the end-user or based on group segmentation.
We may not even notice the personalization, say, opening the "Weather" app, the first thing we see is the city we are currently located in. It is all-natural for us, although, in fact, it is based on the geopositioning identified for a group of people and therefore gets a personalized content based on this data.
The user interface is relevant to users without any additional effort. Algorithms do all the work. The customer immediately receives relevant information, while product owners get the ability to sell services to target customers.
The system is not always capable of guessing the real user needs. Some users might be frustrated by the fact of the system's knowledge including their personal information, knowing way too much, you know, “Big Brother is watching you” kind of thing.
Careful user grouping
The system should be damn smart and excel at an understanding of a user’s behaviour patterns before grouping users. Misgrouping errors can be frustrating for users. A gentle balance must be struck between groups being too general and too narrow. One more crucial point is making sure that your personalization algorithm relies on the most reliable data.
Years ago Tinkoff Bank app used to show me the shopping malls located in the city where I received my bank card, now it has improved through relying on my actual location. The app has switched from the irrelevant data source to one of maximum relevance.
Personalization works in two directions. Some features or content can be either prioritized and shown to a specific user group or, conversely, can be hidden based on user data.
A part of the personally available stories are hidden from other Tinkoff Bank users in my region – personalization hides irrelevant content from me. And conversely, promoting a new feature based on my 6-month purchase history – an example of personalized promotion.
Or, to say more – do not create more groups than necessary. Supporting multiple role groups becomes difficult with the product’s growth. In addition, you will constantly have to create content for different user categories and with too many of them, determining the content types and groups attribution principles might become difficult.
Use all available information about the user. Got system language? Use it. Gender? Use it to reduce form-filling burden by excluding what you already know. User already used or searched for something? Then make it a suggested option. Yandex.Go excelled at implementing this. Depending on my location and recent entries, the app suggests the most probable options for going to or ordering food from. Not banking, yet very relevant.
Even the smartest system does not always work flawlessly when dealing with the particular user’s needs.
For example, I live in St. Petersburg, occasionally buying event tickets through Tinkoff. My regional preference is set based on my location. This is indeed relevant in 90% of my life scenarios as I am usually interested in events of my major residence town. Yet I am pleased to have the option to change the region in the events catalogue as it allows me to get a ticket to my favourite band’s concert in, say, Moscow.
Tinkoff Bank app’s services section conveniently allows users to change the city.
Users, their needs and your product change over time. Therefore, your system performance should be reviewed from time to time.
A properly working personalization provides relevant content to the correct user with perfect timing, and even more – it does so exactly in the scenario necessary. This has a positive impact on both the product perception and UX metrics.
Market’s most successful players make the best of both techniques. But keep in mind that personalization and customization are only effective in addressing certain user insights on top of a properly implemented general interface. Avoid putting responsibility for interface fixes or other complex solutions on to the clients. Then your application will rock with a community of happy users and great rating reviews.