I traveled to Ghana, Africa in September 2015 in the role of User Researcher to understand the connotation and relevance of iconography in mobile phones for rural and urban Ghanaians.
In a few short years, the proliferation of mobile phone networks has transformed communications especially in African countries like Ghana. One of the basic tenets of good design is to keep user in the center and design according to user’s needs and user’s expectation. Therefore, design of a software keeps evolving as the understanding of the user increases. However, when a software built around the understanding of user’s from a particular culture is ported to a different culture, is the design inherently flawed for lack of knowledge of a culturally different user group?
My study aims to answer this question through hands-on-visit to a different culture. Ghana is a place of varying levels of technological experience, thus providing an opportunity to test the assumptions built into the interfaces. But before I could jump to my interview, the first step was cultural immersion – learning their language, culture, festivals etc. I also met a few Ghanaian researchers and learned about issues I could run into. For example when a Ghanaian says “I am hot”; they simply mean “I am busy”. Understanding these nuances was extremely important for a successful research experience. My study was ethnographic, involving interviews and observation in the field.I interviewed mobile and non-mobile users living in urban and rural Ghana to learn about their understanding of mobile iconography and came up with a lot of recommendations for a local non-profit organization.