What is the iHub User Experience Lab and why does it matter to you?

By Abigael Wangui
iHub UXlab
  Published 18 Oct 2012
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Kenya is an innovation hub - a common assertion on many forums. Products such as M-Pesa and Ushahidi have firmly put the country on the global tech map. But we need to start developing products that truly meet the needs of the population, and that are truly scalable, if we are to make these assertions a reality beyond the M-Pesa /Ushahidi buzz. Despite the worthy level of programming capacity in the region, many of the mobile applications and web platforms are still created with a top down approach. A programmer enthusiastic about an idea writes beautiful code that hypothetically makes sense - but that has zero data on the user they are targeting with this product.


  • Hundreds of man-hours later, a frustrated, under-rested and over-caffeinated programmer with a product that only they truly appreciate, folds.
  • Matters are made worse that there was no user-interface designer in the first place to better advice on how the product could work better and intuitively for the end user.
  • To compound the problem, there is no affordable designer to do the user interface design.Sounds familiar?
This is why the iHub UX Lab is here. There is a lot of attention that is given to products from a developer’s perpective. Most apps and products are engineer driven rather than user driven. This is what needs to change so that much more attention is given to understanding users whose needs then dictate the technology rather than vice versa. Something to think about:  how many Kenyan apps are on your smart phone? The answer is probably none or nearly none. Why?  Simple. Most don’t address a need that is important enough to you. If the developer found out what is most important to you and proposed a technology that solves it, you would most likely consider using it. This process is what user experience is all about. Finding out what the most pressing problem is, the solution that is most appropriate and optimizing the delivery of this solution. It is, simply put, doing what you have been doing, but doing it smarter!

The iHub UX Lab

Building the iHub UX Lab We are building a state of the art user-experience lab, which basically means as a start up or business, you will be able to test your product and adapt valuable feedback from your target market so that in the end, you are truly building it for them and addressing their needs. If you are solving a problem they have and in a way that makes sense for them, uptake chances improve tremendously.

Why is User Experience important to you?

As a startup or established organization, you set out to develop a product as a solution to a challenge(s). It is targeted for a certain segment of the market or population. It is critical to understand this market. Unfortunately, we often don’t find time or resources to do this with serious implications. User experience research and testing involves finding out from this population exactly what their challenge is and how best you can help address this challenge. It then helps you determine where and how to concentrate your effort to ensure you hit the bulls eye with your target market. Often you do not have in house bandwidth or knowhow to conduct this research and testing of the product once the product is developed. With the iHub UX Lab here, we are able to help you do this work and test your products with users. We then give you recommendations for improvements before releasing the product to the market for best impact. If the product is already in the market, we are able to engage users to find out what needs to change or how you can keep improving the product for bigger impact. This way, you can focus on what you are good at. Beyond that, we are prepared to develop convenient training programs that equip you with the basics of how to think and approach your product design/development process from a user centric perspective. This way, the whole team operates with a user centric radar, giving the product a much better chance in the market. There are no other full service user experience design labs in sub Saharan Africa. In this sense, it is a privilege and unique opportunity for companies in this region. Once done, the lab will be fully equipped - with a proper testing room equipped with cameras and eye tracking technology on one side an observation room with monitors to see what the user is doing on the other side. It s being built out to be a space with modern technology but with an African touch where designers/creatives will be able to create and crunch out ideas in a space specially built for them.

What have we done so far?

  1. We have built 70% of the lab and are working to complete the build out. We are also working on finding support to equip the lab.
  2. Already organized for the first world class UX training with Thoughtworks flying in UX expertise from London to give a training from 29th to 2nd November.
  3. We have already started UX research and testing for the community. We are building more partnerships with global design thinking and user experience expert organizations and individuals for your benefit
For more on how to get the UX training on the 29th to 2nd November, contact Mark Kamau, the iHub UX Lab lead (mark[@]ihub.co.ke)    
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