There’s a wealth of research, ideas and best-practices on the topic of creating great digital products.
But for those of us designing digital products in markets across the African continent, not all of these global principles apply. We’re a unique continent, home to over a billion people in 54 countries, and within each country we’ll often find many different cultures and languages.
Designing digital products in Africa means understanding user-experience from a uniquely localised vantage point.
It’s no easy task… we often find that our users lie across the broadest possible spectrum of digital sophistication – from the super-users that have been using technology for decades, and know how to push technology to the limits, all the way to the newest users who are interacting with digital for the first time.
So just how do we consider the ‘local effects’ when developing solutions in Africa?
Firstly, we need to understand the types of devices in customers’ hands. Across the continent, we see a range of different devices and mobile operating systems – from with Android dominant in the smartphone world, along with a surprisingly high number of Blackberry and Nokia feature phones. Other mobile operating systems – like iOS and Windows – tend to take a back-seat in most markets.
Considering the vast geographies across the continent, and the high-ratio of the rural population (when compared to developed economies), we also need to consider the quality of the mobile data networks – which range from lightning-fast 4G networks in cities, to very patchy Edge and GPRS connections.
These dynamics raise interesting technical questions… such as how our digital products can be scaled down and adapted to different devices and networks?