Project management on Kolo Africa was a “throw me in the deep end, sink or swim” situation when I jumped in head first to create order out of chaos. It also highlighted the importance of knowing your audience when building an app.
In this case, our users were loading our apps on smart phones with very little access to the internet in rural Africa. We focused first on the Android platform as Android devices are more accessible and prominent in this area. We fine-tuned the app to display only African languages and created a very visual interface that would allow illiterate users to navigate the app and access a variety of languages for their country so they could listen to audio from Bible.is and watch videos from Jesus Film Media.
What we discovered after launching the app is that our solutions are only as good as our knowledge of user interaction. We learned that we needed a high-contrast interface so that users could identify buttons and in the glaring African sunlight. We also found that newer video encoders did not prepare videos properly for older (and cheaper) Android devices, which is primarily what’s available in the rural regions of Africa. Another use case identified was that users needed to download content for extended periods of offline play. These are the types of things you uncover while building a complex application. Every lesson was important and led to a more robust app. What we had planned as a prototyped turned out to be a well rounded app with a full set of features and African languages.
Don’t discount the importance of user testing. It makes for a better product every time.