How To Use UX/UI For Global Good

“UX/UI is more than just social media…when you understand that UX/UI is not about the client and only about the user, you know how important it is and the benefits it has for the user.”

We spoke with Paola and Miriam about the use of User Experience and User Interface for global good, the importance of accessibility of learning platforms to ensure that all students and teachers have their needs met , as well as tips for budding designers about how to understand and respond to user needs throughout the design process.

What is UX? UX stands for “user experience” and is determined by how difficult or easy it is to interact with an application or program.

What is UI? UI stands for “user interface”, which is the graphical layout and interaction that must be designed for an application or program.

Paola Goldade is a UX/UI designer and strategist, and the project lead for Simbi Foundation’s Think Tank UX/UI research project, which seeks to improve Simbi Foundation’s unique digital curriculum platform used by remote and refugee students in Uganda and India.

Hi Paola! How are you doing?

I’m doing great, thanks!

Happy to hear! Let’s jump into the theme of using UX/UI for global good. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re using our screens and devices more than ever before. Do you think that people have become more aware of the design process that goes into the platforms we use?

I think COVID has increased people’s awareness of the design process. It created a deep need to go digital and to do it quickly. In order to create an effective and efficient system, people turned to designers for help. As a result, design is being valued in organizations like never before.

When designing platforms for remote or under-resourced communities, how do you make sure their voices are heard in the design process?

We use every means of possible communication to reach out to them and speak with someone who can work as the liaison between these communities and ourselves. An effective method is also creating a digital document that contains our research questions and potential design samples, which we send to the communities through the communication liaison. This simplified document requests the users to provide their thoughts and feedback. Moreover, we look at the past user research done by both the organization we are working with and other relevant organizations to learn more about challenges and barriers that users face.

What advice would you give to new or experienced designers who are looking to use their skills to create a global positive impact?

Let your work be driven by empathy, thorough user research and testing! We’re not designing for ourselves, so always ask meaningful questions to understand your users, their needs and goals. How does the work you are doing help with their problems and pain points? How can we simplify things for them? Do the business/organization goals support the user’s goals?Throughout the process, ensure to collaborate with other individuals whose skills and knowledge could increase the positive outcome of the design and project as a whole.

Thank you, Paola!

Miriam Bellon is a Creative Art Director, full stack designer and a UX/UI researcher in Simbi Foundation’s Think Tank.

Hi Miriam! How are you?

I’m great, thanks!

Glad to hear! We know from popular documentaries like “The Social Dilemma” that algorithms, UX/UI, design, and more can be used to make platforms addictive and even detrimental to our health. How can UX/UI be used for good?

When working in this field, you are aware and have the responsibility to do what is ethical and to distinguish between what is ethical and what is not. Documentaries like “The Social Dilemma” can reflect the negative part of this field, but it’s not a common practice. UX/UI is more than just social media. When you understand that UX/UI is not about the client and only about the user, you know how important it is and the benefits it has for the user. Starting out from this premise, we — as UX/UI Designers — are here to help the user and we are always focusing on user-centered design. Because of this, we empathize with them and know what their needs are in order to solve their problems. All this guarantees an excellent experience while they are navigating through a website. We are interested in learning more about users in order to help them and put ourselves in their shoes by creating a user persona or a journey map. We need their opinion while testing before launching a product or website to see if it lives up to their expectations. The entire UX/UI process is focused on the user and their benefit, and we can’t come up with a project or an idea without understanding their needs.

Why is accessibility so important in UX/UI design?

I didn’t know how important accessibility was until I was researching this issue for Simbi Foundation’s project. Accessibility is a powerful tool when building a website and reaching your target persona as it brings a product closer to a user. In the end, the user wants to navigate in a fast and intuitive way. The UX/UI can create a more comfortable journey, without any interruption. Regarding Simbi Foundation’s project, accessibility was a key-core in order to help a user persona in Bidibidi refugee settlement, Uganda, who might experience barriers such as limited time to use learning platforms, disabilities, or being unfamiliar with new technologies. We have solved these problems and made navigation easier by implementing a variety of features into new designs for Simbi Foundation’s digital curriculum platform.

How can good UX/UI improve the learning experience of students in vulnerable, refugee, or low-resource contexts?

UX/UI Design makes navigation easier, and navigation was the challenge that we were tackling. Our target persona was a refugee student who is learning at school using a device for a limited time and who is unfamiliar with new technologies. As an advantage, UX/UI Design research helps to understand and detect these problems to improve the way the students are learning. When you are designing, focusing on what is simple, precise, and clean when making similar patterns that are familiar to the user is a perfect way to contribute to good UX/UI.

A key part of the design process is meeting the needs of the users — if you had to share three “golden rules” for making sure that you are meeting user needs in the design process, what would they be and why?

Ask why: asking this or that, make as many questions as possible about the user, the problems, and their needs. By doing so, you can focus on all necessary elements in order to create proper solutions.

Empathize with the user: try to understand the user, be interested in them, learn about their frustrations, habits, and needs in order to come up with solid and consistent solutions.

Test everything: the user is the main protagonist and has the final say before launching a web or product. The user’s opinion is crucial to check if the solutions are right.

Thank you, Miriam!

Interested in learning more about Simbi Foundation’s Think Tank? Click here to learn more!

Education means a brighter future. simbifoundation.org.