Yesterday we opened a new chapter in the pursuit of Human Centered Design in Africa!
For the longest time, I have been in awe and envy of the relatively developed user experience cultures of other societies in the west, while at the same time quite saddened by the lack thereof in Africa.
My contention has always been that it is in Africa where Human Centered Design is most needed and as such, where there is the most to gain for humanity in general. Technology has in many ways unbent the steep curve Africa would have had to navigate otherwise. However, the way solutions for African problems have been developed in many ways leave the problems unsolved.
It is in this serious and urgent backdrop that the first User Experience Lab in Sub Saharan Africa iHub UX lab put together the first User Experience Month in Africa, Tajriba.
We could not have gotten a higher profile speaker to open this amazing chapter than Susan Dray, the mother of UX.
She has been in the field for several decades and the wealth of experience shone through as she presented UX 101. This was an introductory series for novices in the field.
The biggest takeaways of the day are as follows: -
1. User experience is not extra work, it is mitigation of risk and giving your product the best chance to succeed.
This is an important point. In a resource constrained, splitting-deadline start up world, many startups and established corporates misconstrue user experience as yet another process the piles on the work, while in fact it is in the long run the exact opposite. It helps you prevent expensive fixes down the line having rushed through traditional waterfall design model
2. Know thy user
This sounds like a broken record right? But think about it for a moment. What does it take to truly know thy user? Susan elaborately explained what the process entails, from the difference between personas and user scenarios to doing empathy (without judgment). Tomorrow we will be applying these principles practically as we go out of the space into the busy streets of Nairobi to sharpen our tools.
3. It is not rocket science
Human Centered Design methods are quite doable with the right focus to learn and practice them. While there is some learning to do, the feeling in the tech community is that you need to shut down and go off to university for a few years to be able to do this. The key ingredient is in fact having the right attitude that genuinely cares for your users and staying honest to putting them at the center of your design process.
Tomorrow we roll our sleeves and get down to it. Suddenly I am not envious, but optimistic!