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By Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman

Lessons from our first usability test of an mFarmer service in Tanzania

Lessons from our first usability test of an mFarmer service in Tanzania

In December last year, members of the GSMA mAgri team joined Tigo Tanzania to conduct the first round of usability testing of the newly-developed mFarmer service- Tigo Kilimo. We travelled to the Morogoro region in Mvomero district which is located about 340Kms from Dar es Salaam.

The method we chose to test the farmers’ reaction to Tigo’s mobile information and advisory service was different to a Focused Group Discussion (FDG). In a FGD, a facilitator talks to a group of people (often a group with different ages, gender and socio economic backgrounds), explains the idea to them, and observes their reaction. Often some of the respondents are vocal and overpower the voices of the others who may not understand the product or who have similar difficulties and who may not feel confident enough to express their thoughts. This can sometimes be minimised if the facilitator is experienced enough with asking questions to the less vocal respondents.

For these reasons we chose Usability Testing, where the facilitator’s full attention goes to the single user. Even if the user doesn’t understand the product, there is an opportunity to identify the reason for any confusion and take action accordingly.  Also during the interview the facilitator gets the unique chance to observe every detail of the respondents’ activity related to the usability of the product and collect feedback.

On the first day of our usability testing, we reached the location by noon. Our host had already organised an agriculture extension officer to invite some local farmers according to our sample plan. There was a good mix of gender, age and socio economic background. It was a first-time experience for some of my team members, so everyone was watching the first participant curiously. As more interviews occurred, important findings were identified and the team became more confident.

On the second day of testing, we went to a location about 300 km from Morogoro and met around 10 farmers. This day went smoother than the previous day, and we were done before it was dark.

Some key lessons from our usability testing:

  1. Collecting the right people or potential users is a big challenge and often can be the main reason for the failure of the usability test – we were lucky enough to have the right respondents.
  2. Morning is the best time of day to run the tests. In remote locations it can get dark all of a sudden because of no electricity and respondents may not feel comfortable to continue – on the first day we had to stretch the last interview with the help of our car’s headlight, which was not ideal.
  3. Interview schedules need to be carefully managed. If all respondents come at the same time, it creates extra pressure on the facilitator to move to the next respondents quickly. Additionally, other respondents who are waiting can be upset waiting for a longer time until their interviews.
  4. Take dedicated phones to test the product. Using the respondents’ phone can be messy and can turn the interview to a phone fixing session – I hope you understand what I mean!

However, from this trip we have learnt many things especially about the challenges that may come when we do usability testing in similar locations. Now it is time to look at the feedback we received from the users and put this into action. It is critical to accommodate this feedback in the product and we’ll need to go back to run another test to measure the success in near future.


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