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iHub By Mark Kamau / September 17, 2013

A microcosm of the Kenyan design process


Yesterday something interesting became apparent. In the user experience class last week, the participants were given a task to go and do some research into a design challenge.

The 2 design challenges were:-


  • Design a solution for transport professionals to improve their use or behavior on roads
  • Design a solution that can help the Kenyan working class keep time
  • Design a solution that will engage Kenyan youth on taboo issues of love and relationships

Today they were meant to present their projects. Each of the teams presented quite some impressive solution ideas that they proposed. The trouble is, none of them presented the personas of their users to s meaningful depth.

Shikoh Gitau took this as an excellent learning opportunity for the teams and asked some critical questions about their users that they had not thought about and the importance of first focusing on understanding our users to a decent depth before we propose solutions.


In many ways, today’s experience is indicative of the Kenyan techies.  This is you and me, We have been in the industry for a while and instead of this serving us, it has become our very Achilles heel.  We know about technology and naturally, we have 10 solutions for each word a client utters.

We need to learn the humility and patience to truly listen to our users. Not with tech solutions running in our heads as they speak, but truly listen without a tech perspective. It is hard, but it is what we need to do to understand our user.

Tech after all, is about human interaction. The next time you receive a new project, take time to make your user the centre. Develop solid personas on which you will anchor your solutions. Just a thought…

Author : Mark Kamau

Mark Kamau is passionate about User Centered Design and the potential smartly designed technologies have to solve African challenges. He has over 10yrs experience in the multimedia space with regional and international experience. He is passionate about Africa, design thinking and technology in a global and localized, African context. He is the User Experience Lead at the iHub UX lab working with start ups, corporates and academics in the ensuring products built in Africa are user centric. He spends the rest of the time growing a user experience culture in Africa.

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