2012 World Usability Day at Cloudberry

Cloudberry had the pleasure of hosting our second annual World Usability Day event on November 8, 2012. World Usability Day (WUD) is an annual collection of events held worldwide, where professionals gather to discuss the creation of user-friendly products and services. This year’s theme was the usability of financial systems, and we looked specifically at the usability of financial systems in constrained environments.


Bill Donner, presenting on Ghana mobile market data project.

The Presentations:

We were thrilled to have Veronica Yow, Lisa Kienzle, Tanya Rabourn, Bill Donner, and Liang Zhang speak about different elements of financial services usability, and creative solutions for providing financial services to the less accessible areas of our globe. Below is a collection of the key points we walked away with, from each presentation.

Opening Remarks

Sandy Williams, CEO of Cloudberry
To begin the evening, I spoke about an initiative by United Villages called Daknet. Daknet has successfully brought internet connectivity to areas that are too remote for traditional wiring, such as rural India. Daknet consists of central kiosks placed in communities so that residents may browse pre-loaded pages, send and receive email messages, and submit search queries.  Wifi-enabled vehicles (often buses or motorbikes) then drive past the towns, simultaneously uploading and downloading data and information to the kiosks. The user interface design of this system is also tailored to its users: Daknet strips down the user interface to leave only the most essential parts for users who may have little digital familiarity.

Such creative solutions are needed in many areas of the world, especially when it comes to financial services.

Presentation: The Growth of Mobile in Africa

Veronica Yow, Program Manager, Text To Change
Veronica Yow joined us with a pre-recorded video to discuss the tremendous impact mobile has had in Africa. Text To Change (TTC) is a mobile initiative in Africa that has launched over 50 mobile SMS campaigns to increase health and financial literacy.

Key Points:

  • Mobile is widespread. 53% of people in Africa currently have mobile subscriptions, and Africa is the world’s second largest mobile market after Asia.
  • Mobile creates opportunities for women. 41% use their phones to increase income and professional opportunities, and 85% feel more independent.
  • Mobile allows social and political engagement. For example, market information, money transfers, and medical information may all be sent via text. And that’s not to mention the tremendous political upheaval we have seen in the past year, facilitated by communication through mobile devices.

Presentation: Mobile and Financial Service in Uganda

Lisa Kienzle, Project Manager, Grameen Foundation AppLab Money Incubator
Tanya Rabourn, User Experience Design Practictioner & Doctoral Student at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information
Lisa Kienzle and Tanya Rabourn shared additional insights into mobile and financial services in Uganda, drawn from the Grameen Foundation AppLab project. AppLab is an initiative that develops mobile solutions to empower the poor with information to help break the cycle of poverty.

Key Points:

  • Financial services are lagging in mobile penetration, despite widespread mobile adoption.
  • Banks and ATMs are difficult to access, only 1 in 5 Ugandans have a bank account. Additionally, Ugandan accounts cost more to maintain than their US counterparts—so Ugandans tend to utilize informal local services instead. Unfortunately, these services do not generate a credit history, making these individuals too risky to serve when they need larger loans.
  • Mobile Money allows mobile owners to open simple accounts on their phones. Networks of private agents then act like ATMs, and are compensated for their services by major operators. Mobile money is highly successful in Kenya, with 80% of Kenyan adults reportedly having used the service.
  • Mobile Money was more recently introduced in Uganda, and is already gaining popularity. Currently, 3 million people are already using the service. However, uptake among the poorest individuals is lagging.

AnswerLab’s Design Challenge

The Challenge:

At this point in the evening, Liang Zhang (User Experience Manager, AnswerLab) challenged our guests to solve some of the issues we had heard about so far. Groups were given a user profile outlining the different needs and preferences of individuals, and asked to create a simple financial service that was appropriate for their user (using only SMS phones).

The Results:

After 15 minutes of spirited collaboration, each group presented a service and hypothetical interface that met their user’s needs. Following our group solutions, Veronica, Tanya, and Lisa stepped back in to offer tried and tested solutions.

“We need to create a new financial services product that is appropriate for the poor, but also viable for the provider to offer” –Lisa

“The simpler a solution, the more effective it is at reaching its target audience”

Presentation: Behavioral Change, SMS Campaign

Veronica Yow, Program Manager, Text to Change

  • Behavioral change can come from simple solutions, such as SMS campaigns.
  • Through over 50 mobile SMS campaigns, TTC has determined what makes a campaign successful. Here is what Veronica shared:
    • Engage: Interactive quizzes test knowledge and provide information.
    • Increase participation: offering prizes for participation and correct quiz answers incentivize the learning process.
    • Test: encourage visits to partnering health clinics, or adoption of mobile money bank accounts. If a campaign has been successful, partnering organizations can let you know.

AppLab Money’s Extreme Design Challenge Solution

Lisa Kienzle, Project Manager, Grameen Foundation AppLab Money Incubator
Tanya Rabourn, User Experience Design Practictioner & Doctoral Student at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information
Zimba is a mobile-enabled platform that enables flexible lending and borrowing within social networks and expands the rural poor’s access to broader capital pools. Zimba allows Ugandans to invite friends and ask for loans via text message.

  • Zimba allows borrowers to build credit and lenders to earn interest on the money they loan out to others.
  • Credit History: As groups grow, banks may choose to contribute to the pool generating an official financial record.

Text UI Uber Alles

Bill Donner, iOS Hacker
Bill Donner has recently teamed up with Esoko, a consulting service that helps to bring agricultural and market information to farmers. In his presentation, Bill took us through a history of interfaces used for international exchange and market information. No matter how technology has changed, the bottom line is that simple text-based UI and chat are still the most preferred method of communication, and these methods can be applied to the simplest of devices.

Esoko provides a simple, SMS compatible UI

Key Points:

  • Esoko allows farmers to view the best prices within different markets, and save money by cutting out intermediate traders.
  • The User Interface of Esoko is adapted to SMS mobile phones.
  • It is SMS enabled with 90-95% using the service on simple mobile devices.
  • Impact: Farmers generate extra earnings and can send their children to better schools.

AnswerLab and Paypal Case Study

Liang Zhang, User Experience Manager, AnswerLab
To wrap up our evening, Liang Zhang presented a behind-the-scenes look at a groundbreaking case study from AnswerLab and PayPal. This case study examines how user research can be used to investigate the potential use of mobile wallets, help understand users’ impressions about the overall concept, identify potentially useful features, and determine a multi-channel experience strategy. By setting up a mock retail environment, AnswerLab tested how users reacted to the ability to pre-order and pay for coffee drinks using only their mobile devices.

Key Points:

  • Although mobile wallet users would pre-order their drinks, they had reservations about cutting in front of others waiting in line.
  • Mobile wallets have great potential to decrease stress in traditional shopping environments, where consumers are not using rewards points or coupons because they don’t want to complicate their check-out process.
  • Mobile wallets can improve shopping experiences by helping people stick to diets, and keeping track of loyalty cards and rewards.

For more details, you can view the full case study in Forrester Reports.

Thanks to our awesome guest presenters!

Categories: Cloudberry, Experience Design
Tell us what you think