You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Can Better User Experience Reboot Kenya's App Economy?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, July 17 2013

Mark Kamau (Flickr/Whiteafrican)

African bloggers have bemoaned the failure rate of mobile apps in Kenya, in particular those that win competitions and then disappear. While many factors could contribute to the phenomenon, at the iHub UX Lab in Nairobi, Kenyan web solution expert Mark Kamau shows developers how to put the user at the center of the design. UX is short for User Experience, and Kamau advocates for it as a way of sharing the “cognitive load” between mobile app developers and users.

In a recent interview with Smart Monkey TV, Kamau said that developers focus on the technology and don't focus on the user.

He elaborates, “So most of the time you'll find a lot of the technology that is built has a mismatch with the needs of the user.”

At the iHub UX Lab, which was created in 2012, they try to speak with the targeted users before creating a solution. They then come up with a prototype and show it to the future user, and get feedback before building it.

One of the problems that we see right now is that developers. . . and the tech community taking all the cognitive load. They try to figure out what the problem is themselves, they try to figure out the solution themselves, it's a lot of work! . . . and then to find out it's wrong is super frustrating; it takes a lot of money and it takes a lot of time. So if you use a user-centric approach you're actually sharing this cognitive load, and you're verifying so you know you're doing the right thing right off the bat.

Kamau highlights two recurring problems. One is the assumption that owners of basic phones rely on SMS, when in reality illiteracy hinders many from using that function, and they prefer voice. Another is a problem with overly-complicated mobile payment systems.

The full interview is below:

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.