October 18, 2022

User Research for Next Billion Users (NBU)

Rushali Singh

The Next Billion Users: Optimize your research

Everyday millions of new users come online. These millions aren’t always individuals with access to reliable internet, network, or with devices that suit their needs. So, in a rapidly evolving ecosystem how can we create, innovate, and build for inclusive and diverse audiences? Most importantly, how can our designs cater to their needs?

This is what Google’s Next Billion Users initiative seeks to solve — through intensive and extensive research that can help the UX community design for everyone, everywhere.

Researching for the Next Billion Users (NBU’s):

  • Contextual Inquiry: Observing real users in their environments, registering their interactions and instant responses can provide richer insights when building for NBU’s — this is considered contextual inquiry. It also allows you to frame questions and follow up responses based on live feedback.
  • Logistical Workarounds: When researching for where accessibility, data usage, availability, etc., are limited, it’s crucial to consider response UI, lightweight apps, optimizing for offline, and even the devices on which these products will be rolled out. In an interview with TechCrunch, Payal Arora, author of The Next Billion Users: Digital Life Beyond the West, said, “Let’s celebrate the mundane over the grand”. For example, writing emails or saving drafts on Gmail can be easily done on its offline version.
  • Build for accessibility: Users with unique cognitive and physical disabilities, users with limited resources to afford high-end products, or language restrictions care more about functionality than aesthetic, but design can be accessible and delightful. With language that is simple and clear, key features front and center, customization and personalization capabilities, etc., — consider ways in which you can engage core and fringe users. For example, Gboards multilingual typing capabilities, UPI’s easy and free to use functionality allows individuals across communities to bank easier.
  • The 3 C’s: In all your research, you will come across the three C’s that influence your research and design — cost, complexity, and connectivity. What and how can you build that incurs a low data cost, is easy to navigate and use, and works well with little to no connectivity?
  • Research for Trust: The key to getting audiences hooked to apps that are beneficial to them is by building trust. And the easiest way to get them there is by eliminating the language barrier. According to Ashneer Grover, BharatPe founder and CEO, simplicity and clarity need to be prioritized to ensure the benefits of a product are front and center — especially the ability to use devices in local languages. Big tech frontrunners like Google, Amazon, Flipkart, are already setting the foundation for inclusivity and trust with multilingual features across their applications.

Resources to get started:

Google already has tools, articles, and research that will help you kickstart informed user research. Here are a few to dive into,

Here are MUST watch conferences to help you research and design for the next billion.

Empower your teams to make informed decisions with real insights from real people.

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