In the tech industry, we’re constantly chasing innovation: the new and the shiny, the slickest UI, the latest framework, an immersive user experience. We’re understandably excited about the possibilities inherent in a world of powerful handheld devices, superfast connections, and a user base with the means and the know-how to buy into whatever next big thing we put out there.
But there exists another kind of digital landscape—places where conditions are imperfect, where networks are flawed, where technical literacy is low, where kilobytes are precious; a world where our carefully crafted digital experiences stutter and crawl and obfuscate and perplex. . .and ultimately fail. Billions of people around the world now have access to connected smartphones, but many can afford only a few megabytes of data here and there, have low-cost, low-specced smartphones and unreliable electricity sources to charge them, and are learning to use digital interfaces for the first time in their lives.
So how can we make sure that keeping up with the cutting edge won’t exclude people in these fast-growing emerging economies? Ally Long shares examples from and lessons learned while working with novice tech users in West Africa, explaining how they navigate and comprehend interfaces, input data, and understand screen flows. You’ll gain some insight into the context and the constraints, see how certain UI patterns and conventions hinder or help, and leave with an understanding of how to include these millions of new users in your product thinking.
Ally Long is a design lead at Field Intelligence. She’s worked on a broad array of projects, from public health software for NGOs and nonprofits to shiny brand experiences at agencies like Edenspiekermann and A Color Bright. She’d like to live in a place where sunscreen is a necessity but makes do in Berlin. Ally travels as much as humanly possible and spends a lot of her time working in West Africa.
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