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UX for (Future) Start-ups. AKA a Week of Training in Nairobi

Web Foundation · July 5, 2011

In these 2 weeks since the official launch, lots of things have already happened at the mLab East Africa. For instance, I had the pleasure of being the first trainer to use the new mLab training room!

The 20-ish students spent one week to get to know all things User Experience, from how to engage with potential users in full discovery mode, up until testing a prototype of their products. In between, we stumbled upon things like: personas, user journeys and activity flows, concept blueprints, sitemaps, sketches and wireframes. The goal in a week of highly participatory training is not to create user experience consultants. On the contrary, it’s to help future entrepreneurs and developers learn the elements (tools, practices, approaches) that the User Experience disciplines have refined for years and years, and give them the ability to use in their nimble (Lean? Agile?) way. Consider this as a participatory workshop on UX for Kenyan mobile / web start-ups.

I think the 2 moments that made me understand we were really transforming their approach to product development were:

  1. Most teams started using the personas names instead of talking about a generic ‘user’: there is a difference if one is developing for a faceless, vague, all-encompassing user, or to be able to produce a service that would make ‘Mike’ and ‘Amina’’s life easier (taking the names of 2 personas created during the training).
  2. The final day, we did a quick & dirty usability test, where people from one team were the ‘users’ for the other teams (and viceversa). The key findings people highlighted from only 1 hour of testing were surprising. Most of the things people discovered were related to language but my assumption would be that with few other tests they would start connect the different findings into broader categories – e.g. the way the application guides people to discover its feature.

…and this is a bit of action:

Presenting the idea for a product/service. Clarifying who is it for, what benefits will bring


Sketching ideas for a mobile application


Paper prototype used during a usability test


Using PowerPoint to mock-up some interfaces


Nokia's Flowella used during a usability test


Balsamiq, another software used to sketch, test and iterate

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