Designing for the Next Billion

In the second half of 2016, I undertook an independent research project of mine after noticing the challenges a number of people that belonged to the “Next Billion” demographic faced interacting with their first smartphones. The goal? Firstly, study a few common UI/IxD design patterns through tests to identify potential issues. Secondly, share my learnings with the wider community. And lastly, create a change in mindset amongst the design community building products for the demographic to focus on user needs and not rely purely upon current design practices and patterns. I’ve written and talked about my study at different places such as conferences, podcasts and blogs. Below, you’ll find a small collection of the prototypes I created (using Framer) as well as a few links to the content I created to share the my learnings.


Lockscreen The lockscreen prototypes was meant to test a user’s comfort with gestures. The different prototypes consisted of a varying degrees of affordances. I experimented with a few different toolbars with different affordances available.

One of the variants tested resembled the equivalent of the modern day Android lockscreen. Testers struggled to grasp what was required to unlock the device, largely due to a lack of familiarity with touchscreen devices. They attempted using physical buttons and tapped the screen, but were unable to find any clear affordance.

Another variant resembled the Android lockscreen from the KitKat days. A lot of testers continued to struggle with this experience as well, as with the previous one. However, when the ring around the lock became visible (upon holding, either accidentally or while discovering), some sensed the need to drag the lock to the ring.

In comparison, a custom variant of the modern day Android lockscreen that clearly asks users to “slide to unlock” worked better, as long as the tester understood English. Tests were not conducted with localized prototypes.

Dialer The dialer offered an opportunity to study a few different paradigms: search (when tasked with calling a specific contact, as described in this blog), horizontal scrolling (for tabbed screens) and buttons (floating action buttons and toolbar buttons). Testers were provided with a few different dialer prototypes, and tasked with calling a particular contact. What we were looking for was how users attempted to find the contact to place the call.

Tabs and horizontal scrolling never felt intuitive to testers as they never anticipated content to be available beyond the right edge of their screens. They would attempt to scroll down the list of favorites (the default landing tab of the standard Android dialer) before tapping different buttons on the screen in an attempt to figure out the experience. Most defaulted to the floating action button, unsure of what the icon meant but feeling a degree of attached prominence to it. Some then went on to use the T9 keyboard to find the contact through if they had done so in the past with their feature phones.

In general for buttons, they were a mixed bag that largely depended on understanding of iconography or language (all tests were conducted in English). Minimalistic icons, such as the search icon in the toolbar here, rarely drew attention.

With regards to search, what was found was that users were unaware of search as a concept - the most similar use case of their’s in the prior experiences was in the form of searching for contacts using a T9 keyboard. A hidden soft keyboard, even with an open search bar, meant the testers felt the need to scroll to find the contact.

Talks and Blog posts

Blog posts

Talk at Droidcon New York 2016