Designing for New Internet Users: Part III

This post is a continuation of: Designing for New Internet Users: Part II, Designing for New Internet Users: Part I

Looking at other’s Whatsapp chats or messages may seem as immoral behavior on the part of Indian users. However, it is important to understand that India is a dense, populated country. As mentioned by Tracy in the video, people’s mental models are built in consonance with the physical spaces they reside in. In India, people’s mental model of space is limited as the physical space, and hence they tend to violate the personal space.

Plus, there is another homogeneous aspect to it. The definition of morality is quite narrow in India. Viewing an item song can be considered shameful. Even though the video may be very popular and could have been viewed millions of times. Like this one:

Baby doll song

A video search history with words like ‘kiss, girl” could be scandalous. Searching for something like “how do I forget my boyfriend?” may instill fear in a teenage girl if the phone is in the hands of her father as it may show up in the Google search auto-suggest (if she hasn’t been careful enough to remove the search history).

Design tip

Offer two modes in Android itself: a Public mode and a User mode. The settings of public mode can take into account the apps a user wants to lock. Additionally, it can hide chats with selected few in communication apps, or search history from Google/YouTube etc. A user may have two passwords- one representing User and another representing Public mode. The desired mode will automatically open on entering the corresponding password. The other person would have no sure way of knowing that he is on a different mode than used by the phone owner.

A few of the mobile experiences can be very special. Namely, video calling with your loved ones.

Off late, video calling is emerging as the frequently used feature across all communication apps. Whatsapp recently announced that Indians are the biggest users of its video calling feature. On an average, globally, there were 340 million minutes of video calls being made every day on WhatsApp. India has a lion’s share in that tally, with 50 million minutes of video calls being made daily.

People like video calling. They can see their own- family and friends- in their own setting. There is a feeling of more closeness, more togetherness on a video call, as compared to an audio call. I was talking to one of my aunts the other day who said if she’s talking to a family member, she prefers switching to video call in sometime. She said:

However, when a flaky connection disrupts that experience, it is quite frustrating.

As pointed out by Garen and Tracy, the network in India is quite flaky and intermittent. 3G connection operates only around 65–80% of the time. And though you maybe using mobile data, internet might not be working for you for minutes or for hours.

Source: Designing Great Apps for New Internet Users (Google I/O ‘17)

It’s also highly unstable- it keeps shifting from 4G to 3G to 2G, or in numerous probabilistic combinations of these. This is rather bad for experience apps, like Google Duo or Hangouts. While having a video call, the image of another person gets stuck while there is a lag in audio-video. Most of the times this freezed image is quite weird and nobody likes to see their loved ones or themselves like that!

It kinda generates a non-so-positive sentiment. Besides, it feels like something is wrong with the app.

Design tip

I know these apps surely are working on optimizing for unstable connections. However, it’d be helpful meanwhile if instead of freezing the current frame of the person, their profile pic is displayed. Also, if the app can keep user informed of the flaky connection, that’d be awesome. Maybe a few of the communication apps already display the profile pic. Yet letting the user know that something is wrong with the network connection, and not with the app, is also worthwhile. Letting them know that their connection switched from 4G to 3G or to 2G is a good idea.


As mentioned in the first part of this series, some unique emerging market attributes are covered by Garen and Tracy in this video: Designing Great Apps for New Internet Users (Google I/O ‘17). I added a few more based on my observations. Some of them warrant more research, rest are covered by UX authorities like nngroup. But certainly these observations provide food for thought to progress on building products for constrained markets.

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