Why User Testing in the field is priceless for a Designer.

I’m a French web student from the school HETIC (Digital communication engineer’s Program) and I live in Paris. I’m doing a 6-month internship as a Design Intern at MakeReign in Cape Town, South Africa. Recently, I’ve had the chance to do some user testing in the field for a mobile application project.

Maud Rochel
Oct 24, 2019 · 8 min read
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Khayelitsha — August 01, 2019

The project

Life in townships

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Photo by Marc Steenbeke on Unsplash

The township of Khayelitsha

How this app can help them

For the trader, it’s a way to improve his situation by earning more money. After adding money to their account they can start trading. For each sale, the trader receives a commission and makes a profit. Moreover, more customers visit their shop and purchase other items, improving their visibility in the township.

Adapt yourself to the situation

The best solution for us was to base our designs on assumptions and test what works and what doesn’t in the field. We decided to go into townships to talk to users and try to understand their way of thinking and how they use digital products.

Interview 1 : Testing to understand


Then, we did user tests with specific tasks — “Please, can you sell me this kind of service for R100?”.

The results were quite surprising. The features that I assumed would be the more complicated (swipe actions, close modals…) were actually basic actions for them and really natural. On the other hand, actions I use every day on my favorite applications were not used or understood at all. For example, 100% of the interviewees didn’t see the bottom navigation bar or didn’t understand the meaning of it.

So, we tried to understand why some actions were so natural for them while others weren’t.

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Khayelitsha Township — July 23, 2019

The power of Design Language

The next day back at the office, I did some research. At that moment, I understood the power of the Material Design System. All the actions that people understood quickly were based on the same way of designing interfaces. Now that we know which language our target market was used to, we can communicate with them in the right way.

First learning

This situation represents my definition of UX design: thinking and adapting yourself to new situations, rather than following a process of reflection and the use of tools.

Interview 2 : Testing to improve

Step 1 : Finding new insights

Pay attention to verbally and non-verbally details.

For example, by observing one of the interviewees in his shop, we noticed that he used a book to keep track of all his customers’ information (cellphone number, meter number…). We asked him why he didn’t use the Contact App of his device to do this. He simply didn’t know that there was a Contact App on the device and he didn’t know how to use it.

Insight : Some traders use a notebook to save their customers’ information.

Friction Point : They don’t know that they can use a Contact List on their device, separately from the app.

Solutions : Add a step in the on-boarding of the app to introduce this Contact List / include a Contact List directly in the app.

Step 2 : User testing

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On the left, it was the first navigation bar (iOS standard) and on the right our improvement after user testing (based on Material Design).

This time, we interviewed 5 traders for about 15 minutes each. Compared to the last test, we had defined the tasks better — with a more logical approach to the sequence / order of the tasks, following an interview guide.

The tests were very successful: we saw that the use of the sidebar navigation was rather natural, however we would need to make some changes to the wording of the application.

Step 3 : Iconography Test

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Interviewees doing the iconography test — August 01, 2019

New learnings

Feeling good also means that there are not too many people around the interviewee. It shouldn’t be an interrogation, but an exchange between two or three people. This way, a direct relationship is established and the person has more opportunities to share their thoughts, feelings…

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Unpack this messy treasure

It was necessary to reformulate the new insights and then to find the friction points for all of them. Then, we tried to find the best solutions to solve all these problems and ultimately to make the best product on the market.

The most important thing I learned

Big thanks to :

  • Elize Van Staden, Project Manager at MakeReign, for organizing all these meetings with users and letting me express myself throughout the project.
  • Britta Graewe, UX Lead at MakeReign, for her valuable advice that has made me a better UX Designer.

Be sure to follow and connect with MakeReign on:

Website | Instagram | Dribbble | Facebook


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