My adventure with the IBM Health Corps which began nearly one year ago, continued with a workshop for the harmonization of cancer treatment guidelines in Uganda. I extended the trip to include talks and additional research, making this an exceptionally productive (and fun) trip.
Here are the highlights of the UX work I did and I also published my personal reflections on Africa.
Workshop at Nairobi Design Institute
Nairobi Design Institute is a new design school in Nairobi, Kenya whose goal is “educating the next generation of designers” for Africa. I led a half day workshop on user research and usability testing for the students and a few guests. The students were in the process of redesigning an airline web site and the timing worked out perfectly to conduct initial studies on the paper prototypes (cut from their printouts) and clickable prototypes they had created. None of the participants had been exposed to usability testing before so it was really exciting to introduce these new methods to them. Each team had a different approach to solving the problems they were faced with and all of them were making significant improvements to the experience.
User Research — Intercept Interviews
I relished the opportunity to meet Kenyan’s on the street and was thrilled to connect with an IBM team that was working with a Kenyan pharmacy. I was to conduct 10 intercept interviews at a pharmacy in Nairobi. I initially selected what turned out to be a very slow store and relocated to one in an extremely congested part of the city. It was rush hour on a Friday afternoon and there were thousands of people walking by the store. Despite this, there were only 8 customers in an hour. I interviewed four of them which I consider an incredible success rate.
The customers were very friendly and willing to speak with me about their experience. I hope to compare my experience with the team doing the same activity. I’m particularly curious if the responses change when someone local (and with more melatonin) intercepts customers. I suspect they would get a different response — though I’m not sure how it would differ — I’m interested to find out.
One of the more enlightening conversations was with a man who said he worked nearby and shared his concern with me that “many Kenyan’s don’t find out they are sick until too late.” In working with the American Cancer Society I’ve learned that late diagnosis (due to: lack of healthcare access; fear of cancer diagnosis which is equated to death; and concerns about the stigma of having cancer) is a primary reason for the rise of cancer mortalities in the region. I later observed him selling a vehicle and realized he was a car salesperson and worked from the lot in front of the store. It was reassuring that even a car salesman (I have only US stereotypes to compare him with — maybe some university education — not highly educated) are aware of (and frustrated by) the cultural barriers to improving healthcare in the region.
Usability Testing — Guerilla-esque
I refer to these as guerilla-esque studies because I ended up observing two participants at a time (not something I would ever recommend) to get as many studies completed as possible. These usability studies were conducted on a new Watson tool with the health care providers attending the African Cancer Coalition workshop.
I led a small team of developers and analysts who also acted as facilitators. I observed one participant using the application on my MacBook Pro and the other on my Lenovo PC at the same time. Luckily the interactions were basically the same across both. I’m sure I missed a great deal of their interactions, but I made it work. Each of my colleagues observed one participant and then I gathered notes after each session. We ran six sessions with ~5 participants in each session across two days and gathered significant and helpful feedback to improve the tool.
Lecture at Makerere University
I had the pleasure of meeting students of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and presenting a talk on user research and usability testing. This was a new topic to most of the audience and we discussed topics that are common around the world:
· potential bias in studies: studies with humans are always biased — we may or may not be able to identify all the biases — and our awareness makes a huge difference in one’s ability to understand the cultural nuances;
· logistics of participant recruitment: how to recruit, where to recruit and associated costs;
· and how to report findings: I always recommend providing findings and recommendations in as “light” and quickly shared format as possible (not a long, formal report) — the PhD students were not easy to convince of this.
Design Without Borders at Design Hub Uganda
My trip ended with a wonderful visit to Design Without Borders (DWB) workspace in Kampala. The Design Hub is a huge warehouse filled with design and architecture organizations and has a small exhibit space. I was inspired by the important work DWB is doing to bring design methods and design thinking to Africans. DWB focuses on projects where they can partner with local people and teach them design methods so that the individuals can effectively use them to further their own businesses.