Mobile UX London Meetup October 2016 – UX for Good

Mobile UX London held its October UX London Meetup around the topic of UX for Good. With seventy-five attendees, the cosy space at Huckletree Shoreditch was alive with chatter as the event kicked off.

The evening featured two speakers, who took us through case studies where they used their UX skills to make a positive impact on the world around them. They then shared the stage for a Q&A, with drinks and networking completing the evening’s agenda. The speakers were Richard Halford, a senior UX Designer at IBM, followed by Sandra González, JUST EAT’s principal UX Designer.

Richard Halford, Senior UX Designer at IBM – UX London Meetup
Can design constraints be freeing and creative freedom be constricting?

Affable and refreshingly frank, Richard Halford has had a rich digital career, spanning the globe and across industries. For his talk at UX for Good, he presented a case study from his time in South Africa, helping design First National Bank’s (FNB) Mobile Banking solution.

For many South Africans in rural areas, traditional banking services just aren’t that accessible. Richard described one woman’s dilemma: She lived an unaffordable day’s ride away by taxi to the nearest ATM, but still needed banking services to pay her bills and to access the money that her son sent to her. The task for the FNB Mobile banking team, and Richard, was to design a new mobile service that addressed the needs of people like her.

The task, however, had some intense constraints. These included (but were not limited to) the solution needing to work with very limited space on ten-year-old legacy phones, address a myriad of financial and technical security concerns, and had to work for a wide range of users with varying degrees of literacy and many different languages. To top it off, they had to deliver the minimal viable product (MVP) in a hundred days.

Yet despite these challenges, Richard described the work as some of the best he’s ever been a part of. He spoke of the importance and pleasure of constraints in the design process as he took us through his team’s process and design solutions. Starting with a small MVP, they built up to the complete service by continuously testing and incorporating new insights and features. Generous simulations and a flow diagram illustrated usage scenarios and features of the final system.


A still of the simulation used in Richard’s presentation

The service was largely successful and is still in use more than ten years on, with over a million users. Richard recounted a particularly humbling experience, where he observed people who couldn’t read but were still able to use the service. He finished off by commenting that “[these days,] it’s too easy for us as designers to get swept away by what we can do with the technology. “Constraints keep us honest and focused”.

UX London Meetup – Sandra González, Principal UX Designer at JUST EAT

Creating Mobile Technology for Refugee Women

An educator-turned-designer with a strong humanitarian bent, Sandra has been awarded for her voluntary work for Apps for Good and currently is the dedicated founder and Director of UX for Change. Her case study for UX for Good was HaBaby, a mobile app for pregnant refugee women and the medical personnel supporting them.

The name “HaBaby” combines the Arabic word “habibi,” or beloved, with the word “baby”. Women and children now make up more than half of the refugees entering Europe, with one in ten of the women pregnant. With medical services for refugees them already stretched beyond any reasonable limit, these women are left particularly vulnerable.


Image of a quote from a pregnant refugee in Sandra’s presentation.

HaBaby was the joint effort between UX for Change, EmpowerHack, CHAYN and a host of international medical organisations. Its design and development brought designers, developers, camp volunteers and clinicians together at the inaugural EmpowerHack hackathon and post-hack accelerator, where even doctors were making paper prototypes. Sandra highlighted storyboards and scenarios as particularly effective ways to share understandings of the problems faced by pregnant women in camps and in transit.

The result of these events was an app that focused on saving lives, by identifying the top five red flags of a pregnancy at risk and easing communication between women and medical personnel. It was lightweight, sustainable, and accessible to both pregnant women and volunteers, who were both likely to have smartphone access. Although it remains a prototype, HaBaby is being actively tested at camps in Europe, and has already garnered media attention on WIRED and the Huffington Post.

UX London Meetup Q&A Session & Drinks

After Sandra’s talk, both speakers came onstage for questions. The atmosphere was one of friendly curiosity, with Richard even turning to Sandra with questions of his own. Questions focused largely on methodology, particularly around user research and testing – both speakers’ case studies featured target users that were difficult to access. Unable to directly access pregnant women in the camps, members of Sandra’s team collected experiences from camp clinicians and refugee mothers who had recently arrived the UK. Richard’s team tried a number of methods, but found the most success by getting South African group members to go visit their own families in the rural areas for guerilla testing.

When the UX London meetup Q&A concluded, everyone moved to the bar next to the presentation space. There, the freely available beer, wine and juice kept conversations going well until the event wrapped up for the night.

On her LinkedIn, Sandra writes that, “One of the most humbling thoughts I’ve encountered, [is] knowing that we will touch millions of lives with the experiences we design.” UX for Good gave some an inspiring examples of how those experiences could go beyond an interface to make a difference in people’s lives – and even save a few.

Mobile UX London is holding a conference on the 25th November, and will feature both Richard and Sandra.

More information can be found here.

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