Research study on African UX users sheds light on persistent challenges of digital transformation


London – A recent study by a pan-African research and design agency sheds interesting light on how companies offering digital products and services survey their users. Russell Southwood spoke to Yann Le Beux, co-founder of YUX and Elizabeth Akpan, his head of UX analysis, about what the study shows.

UX (User experience) is the door through which users go to use digital products and services. No matter how good the idea, poorly designed interfaces and processes will lead to failure. UX in Africa has its own set of challenges, including language and literacy levels; How well do users understand the capabilities of their device? data use behaviors; and reliability of bandwidth. As one Rwandan respondent to the survey noted: “People’s commitment to technology varies considerably.

The report aimed to find out where and how there were UX designers and how they were using research to tackle these kinds of challenges. The study’s survey gathered 100 responses from 18 countries: “We wanted to share this information with decision makers (in potential client companies). There is a movement going on and in a year it will be possible to see if this is reflected in the way clients are doing UX and the research necessary for it to be successful. “

In terms of countries, the survey identified a “critical mass” of skills, talents and activities in five or six countries. These ranged from places like Lagos and Nairobi, where community groups have been operating for over three years, to the Kampala design community, which is “very nascent”.

This part of the research was done using social media, email, and Slack and WhatsApp groups: “We had a lot of connections on LinkedIn and social media. He then conducted in-depth qualitative conversations with 22 of the survey respondents.

They came from both the designer / agency side of the line as well as start-ups and companies using UX in their business. These included UX / UI designers, researchers, product managers, and product and service designers. According to Le Beux: “We wanted to better understand the industry. Research for UX seemed like a good place to start, to understand what the weak spots are.

Businesses struggle to get higher level buy-in from budget holders. According to Akpan, “UX practitioners didn’t feel like they had CEO buy-in.” The very novelty of the idea of ​​research in the African context makes the task more difficult according to one respondent: “Research is new to the company and a big challenge is to map and define what exactly the research process should look like. “. Senior executives are wary of the methodology: “The amount of interviews is a problem when doing research: internal stakeholders don’t trust small numbers because they aren’t comfortable with the qualitative approach.

Much of the interest in products and services is in ‘digital natives’, but as one respondent noted:’ There aren’t many online resources that include the perspective of Africans. older people and the design conventions they follow when interacting with products online. Another respondent noted, “There are no tools like Otter.AI for example, which can transcribe voices with African accents into text.”

In the absence of good research on products and services, the survey found that: “Often customers (especially those from low-income communities) are already comfortable talking to the team. and open easily. This allows them to share their whole feedback with the sales team member they already know. However, the challenge with this is that there is no way to verify the information obtained from the sales team. As always, salespeople often see what they want to see, don’t always get it right, and sometimes have their own calendars.

Recruiting research participants creates its own difficulties: “A few participants (usually no more than 20%) give unreliable answers because their only motivation to come forward are incentives.”

Some companies are more likely to do UX research than others. Companies that are strong at marketing (and telecom operators are a good example of this) know how to make good use of UX skills and the need for research to inform the UX design process. Other companies – like banks in many African countries – have operations that are shielded from the need to innovate by regulation: “Banks are not customers. Only in Nigeria are they sufficiently mature. You don’t need to invest too much in UX research for products, as their strength may lie in distribution. ”However, he sees potential for additional work in B2B solutions, education, and marketing. Agriculture.

For African users to use their phones better, those delivering new digital products and services need to have a much better understanding of what their users want and can do with their device. Telecom operators have a personal interest in evangelizing and demonstrating the value of UX research to their business users.

To download a copy of the report:

In short

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Paul N. Strickland

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