Developers, the backbone of the world’s growing technology-driven economy, are building products that enhance life’s experience. Products that are pushing society forward. This process, not done in isolation, is collaborative. Inclusive of people from various disciplines. One that has grown in significance over the years is product designers.
In a recent study, Onward Search ranked Product Designer’s number one on its list of Most In-Demand Digital Creative Talent for 2019. Outranking Front-end and Full-stack Developers, which came in at ten and twelve.
As the mobile computing era reaches maturity, no longer is merely a functioning application enough, end-users now expect digital product’s to have a seamless, frictionless experience. In the financial services industry where stringent regulations require companies to understand whom they’re doing business with. Securing KYC “know your client” information/ documentation has become critical. Ultimately challenging companies to create a user experience that captures the required information while simultaneously preventing customer frustration.
Launching its digital platform in 2018, Kudy Financials Limited is a Nigerian fund management company. Kudy provides foreign-currency-denominated investment opportunities to African millennials with the hope of helping them reach their personal finance goals, and ultimately financial freedom.
I spoke with Ugo Ifezue, a Product Designer at Toptal, about designing the kudy.io digital product for Kudy Financials, the challenges of creating a frictionless UX/UI, and Tech in Africa.
What was your design process for building the Kudy Financial site?
First, I discussed the existing business model with the client to discover their process. They walked me through everything from beginning to end while also sharing the challenges that they recognized, especially in terms of scaling up — sharing that they wanted to do more with little time and less human interaction.
Then I asked for all the artifacts, the documents that provided a trail of the process. I used that to create a user flow. Also, identifying the pain points and all the design solutions that I could address at each point. From there, I developed a new user flow for the system and presented it to the client — sharing the new process for getting users into the system and how to engage them.
Finally, we got to branding the product. After learning the client’s taste, I created a rough draft of the branding, and once I got approval, I started designing the product in Sketch.
How important is empathy in the UX/ UI Design process as it relates to the end-user?
Design is having empathy. It’s what drives me to have a conversation with a business in the first place. I really want to understand their business. If you look at a company’s business model, it’s driven-by revenue or profits. They want their customers to help them make more money. So in return, as a company, the least you can do is be empathetic enough around how you provide services.
You accomplish this by understanding your business process and then refining it in a way that serves the users best. Empathy is putting users first and eliminating any sort of pain points that would cause them to leave the product or not enjoy their experience. It’s pretty much the main ingredient in design.
How does your development background help you as a designer?
I was working at an e-commerce company as a developer when I transitioned to a product designer. We kept paying research firms to help us understand our low conversion rates, and I wondered, “why can’t we do this in-house?” And it occurred to me that we were developing our site based on features that we wanted users to use, and we didn’t look at how people were using the site. I took a step back from development and became the guy that did all the research, sketching, and wireframing.
As a designer and someone who has software development experience and the skillset, I’m very empathetic and functional. I know what designs are feasible and implementable from a developer’s point. I had all those constraints already going into design. When building a product, I try my best to be as creative as possible while at the same time appreciating the constraints of development. I also occasionally convert my designs into code. Developers usually don’t like implementing hard designs. I have an advantage because I’m able to both design and implement.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the design/ development process?
The biggest challenge was that the developers were not brought on as early as possible. When you’re building products from scratch, ideally, you want all the stakeholders involved in that product available early. The client wanted to add a crypto fund to their list of funds. So I designed something based on my own understanding, the client’s idea of how the fund would operate, and a crypto expert. But when the developers came on board, they pointed out some very critical missing pieces that we needed to consider. Details I, the client, and the crypto expert would have never known. The crypto expert had never developed an application, so he knew crypto from a particular angle, and the developers knew it from another angle. When they came on board, we had to do some design revisions. Now going forward on any project, I plan to have all the relevant stakeholders around during the design discussions.
What do you believe are the keys to being a successful UX/UI designer in Africa as it relates to working in tech?
First, realize that your objective is to solve a problem. It’s very cliche, but it’s true. You are solving a problem for a business with real-world people, and they need you to design a solution for their users to have the best experience. A lot of people think that design is just colors and shapes. No, with UI/UX, you are trying to interface humans with a business model in a way that they get the best value the business is offering. To be successful, you have to have empathy around users’ needs, be intentional about what you’re trying to solve for, and spend a lot of time using products randomly.
At some point, I had more than 50 gigs of screenshots on my laptop. One thing I tell designers is that you can hack your way into experiences by reading blogs from the team building the app. Your design knowledge is a combination of your design experience, practice, and the apps you use every day.
If you’ve never worked on a blockchain product, download three wallet apps. Try to make sense of the wallets and read blogs. A lot of big companies have a separate blog for their development or design team. Uber has “uber.design.” If you’ve never worked on a ride-sharing product and you read in detail about how the Uber design team worked on the Uber app, and you use the app, you’ll start to see the why behind decisions.
To conclude, I’d say that empathy, being intentional, and reading a lot of real-life case studies by real teams building products are the keys to success. Also, use a ton of products. Download, download, and keep downloading. It should be a habit for all designers that when you see an app that looks good, you download it. Even if you need to install a VPN and buy a US phone number to try the app. Built-up over time, it will inform your design knowledge.
Built In Africa. What does that mean to you? Also, what are your thoughts on tech in Lagos?
I think of it as solutions built by Africans in Africa and in the diaspora. Not only for African but solutions with a global reach.
Lagos is very tech-enabled. A lot of transactions are done cashless. Currently, exciting futuristic products are being built here at a very alarming pace. In the next few years, I see growth. We haven’t had AR/VR solutions here yet, but it’s going to be phenomenal to see the implementation of these cutting edge technologies. Investors outside of Nigeria are also interested in being apart of this exciting time. It’s very cool to watch.
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