April 28, 2023
Users should always be at the center of your design process. When users live in rural areas, getting to know them comes with its own challenges: logistical hurdles, time restrictions, resource limitations, and the list goes on. But this doesn’t mean you get a pass to neglect the process of learning their problems and needs.
At Jiva, we recently launched an initiative called UT Day, or Usability Testing Day, which allows us to get to know our users even when we are miles apart with each other. On top of that, here’s what makes UT Day more valuable: it gives everyone in the company, who due to distance and role may not always be able to get into the field, first hand experience ‘meeting’ with users.
How does that work?
Essentially, UT Day lets us rapidly test and learn across multiple areas of our product in a single day. As it is conducted remotely, we are able to broadcast the session so that everyone in the company can be observer — for once, everyone can put on a designer’s hat and get the chance to understand what our users need, where they struggle, or what has been and can be helpful for them in our product and services.
We recently sat down with our Design Researcher, Fiona Yasmine, as she spoke about her experience running our first couple of UT Day sessions. Our conversation with her will help paint you a clearer picture of what UT Day looks like at Jiva and how this has helped us.
Fiona: UT Day is Usability Testing Day. It’s a day when we evaluate a product or service by testing it on representative users. The objective is to quickly identify usability issues and get users’ reactions or feedback about our product. During the session, we ask users to complete a task. By observing them doing this, we can immediately see how users complete a task. Did they complete it swiftly, or did it look like they were struggling? Were they able to complete it at all? It allows us to note what works or what doesn’t for users in the design of the product that we currently have. And we do all this remotely!
How is this possible? Our research team uses Lookback, a digital platform that allows researchers to conduct usability testing and interviews remotely.
It’s already a challenge that our users — smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs — live in rural areas where getting there requires a great effort and resources. But overcoming this by doing remote testing is not without impediments. Relatively low digital literacy skills, limited internet connection, and technical challenges like users facing difficulties in accessing or setting up prototypes are amongst the things on the what-could-go-wrong list. Luckily, Fiona added, our on ground team helps to navigate these issues by setting up devices and prepping participants.
Fiona: Well, we hear from our users that there are parts of our application that are harder for them to operate. This, of course, needs to be examined: which part exactly is hard for them and what is the reason? UT day can help us dig into these and find the answer. From this process, we can discover if our app had usability issues that we haven’t captured yet. Or, we can also figure out which particular user demographic struggles most in navigating our app.
All these, she continued, we can find out rather quickly, and relatively more efficiently, as we don’t have to go through the lengthy process of arranging trips and other logistics like if we are doing it on site.
Fiona: Hosting a UT day can be an insightful and rewarding experience. It allows me, as a researcher, to gain a deeper understanding of how our users interact with our product and identify areas that need improvement. It’s also an essential step in creating products that meet the needs and expectations of our users that the wider team can refer to for product development. However, it can also be challenging, especially in recruiting the participants, coordinating, and scheduling the research sessions that work for the researcher, the participants, and the audience (all teams at Jiva), because we work in 3 different time zones.
Fiona: Loads of things! For now, I can say that we definitely discovered some usability issues that we wouldn’t otherwise find out if we didn’t do this; if we didn’t see our product through our user’s eyes. For example, if our product’s task flow has too many steps to complete one task, or if the loading time takes too much of their time. We could also see if there are features in our app that tend to be neglected by a certain user demographic.
All things considered, she said, we certainly learned so many things about the way our product works for our users. More importantly, above all else, we get to know them better. And when we know our users well, we will be able to design better product for them that helps them do their work easier.