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‘Lack of user experience research hurting African startups’

Kenya , 15 Jul 2014

‘Lack of user experience research hurting African startups’

A lack of user experience (UX) research is costing African startups customers and revenues.

This is according to Kevin Njoki, a software engineer at East African document management solutions firm COSEKE.

Njoki has further called on African startups, and specifically software and application developers, to start incorporating UX research in their product development lifecycle.

“The problem with most of us (developers) is that we usually assume that we understand the users’ problem(s), and with this we presume that whatever solution we come up with will be the best for the market,” Njoki told ITWeb Africa.

“You will however be surprised on how different the true picture on the ground may be, once you carry out a simple UX research on the potential users of the product,” Njoki added.

Njoki said he previously made the mistake of dictating solutions to prospective users of his applications without prior research, something that cost him a lot of time and resources in modifying his applications to fit the exact needs of the users.

“There is nothing as bad as identifying a problem, sitting down to design a solution, coding, debugging , only for you to release the app or software to the market and have a lot of ‘negative’ feedback on how it was not solving the exact user problems,” Njoki told ITWeb Africa.

“It’s better to have this ‘negative’ feedback when the project is still in its infancy stages and have enough time to incorporate counter solutions, rather than having to change a whole system afterwards when it has already been launched,” he added.

This not only requires more time and money, but also puts off potential consumers of the product.

“First impressions matter, and getting that customer back on board once they are disappointed in your solution could prove even more difficult and more expensive,” Nkoki added.

However, cash-strapped startups in Africa could find UX research an expensive luxury.

On this point, Njoki said, “It is understandable to think that way, but remember at the end of the day it’s a matter of satisfactorily meeting customer requirements.”

“UX research does not necessarily require mainstream research,” he continued.

“You could start by talking to friends and relatives, asking them to give you feedback on your prototype and what they would have wanted included in the solution,” he added.

In conclusion, Njoki advised startups to concentrate on providing solutions that capture the needs of the users.

“The secret is: understand the exact problem, create a prototype and get feedback on the same during development, and above all, ensure simplicity, or ease-of-use is maintained. That way, you will are almost sure to get users who will not only be loyal and happy that you solved their problems, but will also go an extra mile in spreading the news to others, bringing in more customers and revenue to the company,” he concluded.

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