IASummit Poster: UX Research Stories from Rwanda

Today, on Friday, April 1, I presented a poster at the IASummit 2011 in Denver, CO. I had fantastic time talking and sharing with everyone who stopped by, and I hope you’ll stay in touch in the future.

In case you missed it, or wanted to see it again, you can check out the pdf of my UX Research in the Real World: Stories from Rwanda poster. To make it easier to read online, I’ve also posted the content below. Enjoy!

But first, some sad news…

In all the excitement of going out to eat on the last day of the Summit, I managed to leave my poster and all your wonderful stickies in the ballroom long enough for the Hyatt conference center staff to efficiently throw them out.

I did at least get a photo of the stickies well after the poster session, so I probably got most of the stragglers recorded, as well as those who participated in the session. So, look for a post in the coming days about what people wrote!

And now for the poster transcript.

UX Research in the Real World: Stories from Rwanda

What happens when you do user experience research in a context different from the United States? In June 2010, I learned three ways that UX research in Rwanda is different from what we are accustomed to in the United States.

After the UX research team understood these differences, we were able to come up with approaches that enabled us to test our product—a website to help teachers talk to one another and share resources—in a context where we had not yet worked.

1. No schedule: think in chunks

The Rwandan perception of time is less linear than that in the US, so it was difficult to carry out strict research schedules. Instead, we organized our research in stand-alone chunks, which allowed for flexibility and creativity.

Our research chunks:

1. Non-leading interviews
2. Usability tests
3. Observing website training
4. Campus tours

2. No recruiting: know your criteria

Without the ability to schedule ahead of time, we recruited on the spot. We learned to know our criteria so we could determine whether a new acquaintance could help us learn.

Our research criteria:

What subject do you teach?
We wanted to talk to teachers of a variety of subjects, but English teachers tended to be great participants, since they were most comfortable talking with us.

How often do you use a computer?
We were looking for users who had basic skills, and we did not want to skew our research with results from technology experts.

Do you have time to meet with us?
Teachers’ schedules varied a lot. Some had time for both an interview and a usability test, but for others, we had to choose one activity.

3. No lab: nta kibazo

Sometimes the person who lent you space might decide to use his filing cabinet in the middle of your usability test. As Rwandans say, “nta kibazo”—no worries. If it is not bothering your participant, then you do not have to be bothered either.

Our mobile lab essentials:

A. Laptop for usability testing and note taking;
B. A mouse! Most of our users are not accustomed to track pads;
C. Simple video camera (for audio, too);
D. Notebook for quieter and more reliable notetaking;
E. A friendly face;
F. Point and shoot camera, because photographs of important documents are faster than notes or photocopies;
G. Snacks: You have to take care of yourself if you’re going to take care of your participants;
H. Wireless modem, because some of our schools had temporary problems with their internet connections.

A bit about Rwanda:

  • A small country, about the size of Maryland, located in central Africa
  • In the process of rebuilding and recovering after a devastating genocide in 1994
  • With a population of 11 million, it has one of the highest population densities in Africa
  • Exports fantastic coffee and tea
  • Until 2009, schools were taught in French, but today teachers are expected to use English in the classroom, and most Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda as their first language

So, that’s the digitized version of the poster.

I hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions or comments about what we talked about, please do give me a buzz.

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About Veronica Erb

Designs, researches, illustrates, and writes code. Plays ukulele. Dances Balboa. Grew up in a geodesic dome, and hasn't gotten over it.
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One Response to IASummit Poster: UX Research Stories from Rwanda

  1. Pingback: Six months in review | verbistheword

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