May 3, 2021 • 3 MIN READ
When we set forth to develop a platform that enables our customers to have access to affordable food and utilities they need, one of our main goal was to create a unique experience. Over the past few months, working closely with our customers and understanding how they use our product, we have learnt that designing for the African market meant nothing short of undoing most default training, behaviours and assumptions we have held as designers.
We have found ourselves modelling commonly available design systems, mainly from the West and trying to fit them onto the African context; Like many others, we found ourselves questioning, well, everything about this experience and how it tied to our market: our preferences; the way we spent time, money, and attention; our understanding of "a good design"; what we've learnt at school; and more.
We quickly learnt that building Ayazona for the African market meant incorporating diverse viewpoints and experiences into our design practice at each step of the way. It meant thinking beyond the needs of the western economically advantaged approach. In other words, it meant uncentering ourselves from the academic training design practice.
We always unknowingly find ourselves at the centre of our design work in different ways, but here are some specific examples that we discovered during the Ayazona app redesign sprint:
When mocking up designs that look or sound "good" only in English; neglecting the fact that we are targeting a diverse market featuring upto 2,000 languages.
When we present the mockups on predominantly high-end, large-display devices, neglecting the fact that our local market feature low budget smartphones to feature phones.
When delivering design specs to engineers without the alternate text, VoiceOver needs to read aloud, neglecting the customers who can't directly read and may require guidance.
A key part of working as product designers on Ayazona is ensuring that the platform experience for mobile users not only aligns with the greater brand vision — but also successfully translates key visual elements so that they are scalable and buildable. For us, scalability means making sure everything looks and feels good across every mobile device for every single Ayazona user.
As we look ahead to further set our foundation in 2021, we’re already starting to evaluate how we can enhance the experience. We want to improve scalability and implementation, as well as accessibility and inclusivity. Our aim is to continue pushing toward the goal of creating an experience that can be enjoyed and celebrated by every single Ayazona customer.
One of the biggest takeaways from this design sprint is that nothing we do as designers is neutral or objective. Every choice we make is either centering ourself or striving to center others. In everything we create, we have the opportunity to make a conscious choice to uncenter ourself and have the true experiences of others represented more in our work. This means understanding everything we do and believe by default and turning it on its head in order to see through a new lens.
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