Empowering Artisans in Namibia

Alex Plunkett
6 min readNov 14, 2023

Addressing the challenge of high shipping costs, carbon footprint and lengthy delivery times with an end-to-end e-commerce solution.

In collaboration with Manasi kelkar, Carlotta Katahara, Martina.

This case study outlines the design process for OYETU, an outreach program in Namibia. The goal was to create an e-commerce solution addressing challenges such as high shipping costs and lengthy delivery times for international customers while adhering to fair trade principles to sustain artisan craftspeople.

Unveiling Challenges and Aspirations

Diverse insights from interviews reveal strengths, weaknesses, and goals, guiding the e-commerce solution.

The OYETU-Team; Namibia.

Client Background, Pain Points, and Goals

Insights from interviews, conducted with a diverse group including artisans, customers, and stakeholders, revealed strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Key pain points included unclear customer identification, communication of product uniqueness, and adherence to fair trade principles. Goals focused on creating an e-commerce solution tailored to the ideal customer.

At OYETU, we adhere to the principles which promote equitable, transparent, and sustainable trading practices that benefit economically disadvantaged producers, ensure fair pay, and prioritise social, environmental, and ethical considerations.

Understanding the Ethical Shopper

User personas and interview findings shape Robin, the conscious consumer, and inform design decisions.

Research and Findings

Research aimed to understand customer motivations. Competitive analysis unveiled industry practices, while secondary research highlighted challenges faced by craftspeople. Interviews, employing a mix of one-on-one sessions and an online survey, provided key insights. Influences on purchasing decisions, strengths and weaknesses of OYETU, driving forces for the organisation, and post-purchase customer care were discovered.

Key Insights

  • 📈 60% of our interviewees are willing to pay more for a Fairtrade product, indicating a strong market inclination towards ethically sourced goods.
  • 🌍 Concerns related to shipping costs, packaging waste, and carbon footprint emerged as significant deterrents, highlighting the need for sustainable practices in the e-commerce solution.
  • ℹ️ The uncertainty surrounding the authenticity or origin of the item surfaced as a critical factor influencing purchasing decisions, emphasising the importance of transparent sourcing and product information.

User Persona

Our synthesised user persona, born from extensive research findings and insights, embodies the values and preferences of an individual deeply committed to ethical and sustainable consumption. Let’s meet our user:

Name: Robin

“I like to make sure workers are earning a living wage. I am happy to pay extra if a product is made in a sustainable way or if the story behind it appeals to me.”

The user persona Robin, embodies values and preferences of an ethically conscious consumer.

✅ Buy Unique & Handmade Products
The persona seeks unique and handmade products, valuing the craftsmanship and authenticity that comes with these items.

👎 Disproportionate Delivery Charges
Robin is frustrated by delivery charges that seem disproportionate to the product value, hindering the seamless pursuit of ethical purchases.

👎 Environmental Impact of Long-distance Delivery
The environmental impact of long-distance delivery is a concern, reflecting the persona’s commitment to sustainable practices.

Understanding the motivations, goals, and challenges of our user persona will guide the design and implementation of OYETU’s e-commerce solution, ensuring a tailored and impactful user experience.

Problem Statement and HMW Questions

Ethical Shoppers in the global north, who support charity initiatives regularly need to find a way to access and support initiatives in the global south because they frequently encounter challenges such as high shipping costs, authenticity doubts and concern about eco-friendly shipment options.

🧿 Awareness related problems

  • How might we effectively communicate the website’s broader purpose beyond connecting customers to Namibian crafters and the outreach program?

🦾 Usability focussed problems

  • How might we provide a website which helps customers in Europe, Australia, US, Canada find and buy handmade crafts from OYETU in Namibia? How might we present prices in local currency?
  • How might we enhance transparency and convenience by offering detailed shipping information, including options, costs, and delivery times?
  • How might we mitigate high shipping costs and carbon footprint with a feature solution?

Crafting Solutions for Fair Trade

The ideation phase introduces core features like “Give Together” to reduce shipping costs and empower artisans.

Core features, such as “Give Together” to reduce shipping costs, a Fairtrade label, setting locale and currency by default, and a project carousel to narrate the impactful stories behind our products, were proposed to enhance the online shopping experience. The “Give Together” feature aimed to revolutionise the online shopping experience by encouraging collective purchases, and reducing shipping costs as well as packaging waste.

Ideation of the features “Give Together”, a Fairtrade label, setting locale and currency by default, and a project carousel narrating the purpose behind OYETU and the origin behind each product.

Testing and Refining the User Experience

Iterations based on user feedback enhance usability, focusing on clarity, purpose alignment, and responsiveness.

Iteration and Prototyping

User flow, low-fidelity testing, and three rounds of moderated user testing informed adjustments and informative copy for the “Give Together” feature. Changes, suggested by test participants and stakeholders, included transforming the country modal into the currency dropdown and optimising the “Create Collective” feature from the cart page.

The elaborated user flow informs on necessary pages, dialogs and other patterns.

Country selector

Usability testing revealed that it would be sufficient to place the currency dropdown into the main navigation instead of a modal on page load.

“Create Collective” button

A majority of test participants used the button in the sidebar to activate the collective cart. The button under the main section was therefore removed as it was deemed redundant.

Give Together feature description

In order to convey effectively the concept of the core feature, multiple iterations were performed on the feature copy and sampled for user testing.

Fairtrade label & pop-up

The fair trade label was supplemented with an on-click pop-up, briefly explaining OYETU’s consideration of the Fairtrade principles.

Setting a due date for filling the cart

Optimised copy was developed which clearly described, why it was important to set a due date for adding items to the cart.

Final Hi-Fi designs of onboarding and the shared cart

Users can activate a collective cart, set a due date and invite via email or link in three easy steps.
Once the shared cart is activated, the owner can manage memebers and track payments.

Vibrant Design for an Impactful User Experience

High-fidelity prototyping incorporates Namibian-inspired visuals, responsive design, and core features for user satisfaction.

Branding and Identity

The core brand attributes — ‘Unique,’ ‘Calm,’ and ‘Resilient’ — served as the guiding principles for interface design. Colour and type definitions in the style tile reflect the Namibian landscape and people. The chosen geometric sans-serif typeface and the derived wordmark contribute to stability, modernity, and uniqueness. The interface revamp aimed to move away from the original grey-heavy design, ensuring clarity and purpose alignment.

The optimised website showcased branding elements, a vibrant colour palette, and responsive design for consistency across platforms. Core features like “Give Together” and the Fairtrade label were integrated to enhance user experience. Integrating a carousel slider on the homepage and product pages helped with narrating the unique story and origin behind each product.

The journey to empower Namibian artisans is at the intersection of innovation, solidarity, and sustainability. From identifying challenges to crafting solutions, the design process reflects a commitment to fair trade and user needs.

The fusion of design elements and fair trade commitment creates an impactful user experience, connecting conscientious consumers with Namibian artisans.

In conclusion, OYETU’s design journey celebrates uniqueness, calmness, and resilience, resonating with those committed to a better, more equitable world.

Key Learnings

  1. Prioritizing demographic questions, especially in non-moderated surveys, is crucial to achieving a comprehensive understanding of user profiles.
  2. Integral in shaping effective design strategies is the recognition of strengths and opportunities through competitors’ analysis.
  3. Significance lies in defining a precise problem statement for project clarity and success.