Experientia s.r.l

We are an international experience design consultancy

With the behaviours and contexts of people driving our designs, we create product and service experiences that really matter.

Brief

Identify medium-term mobile product and service opportunity areas for Vodafone in emerging markets.

What

Explore mobile phone use in developing markets, pioneering an experimental remote-research technique using the mobile phone itself. Participatory design workshops in India developed key ideas for mobile related services and features.

Where

Middle East (Egypt), Africa (South Africa) and Asia Pacific (India).

How

Qualitative ethnographic research, personas, design concept development, concept prototyping, service design, participatory design and foresight recommendations.

Impact

The projects informed product and service design, and opened the way for future research and understanding. Vodafone presented the remote-research technique and project findings at the UPA Conference 2008 and in Interfaces Magazine Winter 2009.

Developing markets

The term Developing Markets (sometimes also called ‘Emerging Markets’) generally refers to emerging and developing regions such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Companies from developed markets are increasingly turning their eyes in these directions, to investigate whether there are unfilled market niches, and to discover the ways in which the needs and desires of these populations differ from those of the more developed world, in order to provide services and products that are designed based on this fundamental understanding.

Experientia has conducted various extensive research projects on mobile phone use in developing markets for Vodafone. The projects covered qualitative ethnographic research, initial design concept development, concept prototyping, service design, participatory design and foresight recommendations to influence the company’s medium-term strategies.

The projects also pioneered an experimental remote-research technique using the mobile phone itself, which was strongly validated through the research results. All concept generation was firmly based on the insights that came from our analysis of the ethnographic research, creating a strong synthesis between research and design.

Envisioning
Experientia conducted a number of inter-related projects in developing markets, to inform Vodafone’s strategic direction entering these markets, and identify potential areas for exploration and optimisation of interaction and industrial design concepts in developing Asia-Pacific and African regions. Each of our projects has provided insights that inform the design of products and services, as well as opening the way for future research and understanding.

Understanding
Before we can envision and design products and services for developing markets, we must understand the ways in which such technologies are being used and the needs they fill in people’s lives, and how these differ from markets in the developed world.

Early developing market projects for Vodafone aimed to understand behaviours and needs of people in Asia-Pacific and African regions, with an emphasis on social networking, through user panels that allowed for regular and long-lasting communication with Vodafone. Using mobile phones to set tasks and collect information from participants, we pioneered an experimental remote research technique that allowed in-depth, ongoing channels of communication with people in these regions. These open channels provided valuable information about implications, opportunities and threats for the development of new tools and interaction paradigms for mobile social applications.

A continuation of this project involved ethnographic research with participants from the lower economic strata of selected developing regions. Through a local facilitator, who also conducted contextual observations, people were involved in a series of tasks through a more supported variation of the remote user technique.

Exploring the needs of this socio-economic group was especially vital, as they often differed strikingly from higher socio-economic groups. In particular, for lower income people, technology usage is a contributing factor to their daily survival, where resourcefulness in applying technology can give people a genuine competitive edge.

Design
Based on the insights gathered in the ethnographic research, design concepts for products and services for mobile devices were developed, tailored to the behaviours and contexts of the different regions.

These designs were generated through methods such as opportunity modelling, brainstorming sessions, and collaborative processes, and then refined over successive iterations. One project included a participatory design workshop with lower socio-economic groups, aimed at collecting people’s feedback on service ideas by engaging them in concept development and co-creation activities. This included testing, evaluating and refining key ideas for mobile related services and features.

Prototyping
Design concepts were prototyped using a variety of methods, including low-fi and high-fi conceptual experience visualisations of the services and their user interfaces, interface interaction flows, videos and storyboards. In the participatory design workshops, participants were invited to make their own low-fi prototypes of mobile interfaces and services.

Final deliverables
Vodafone received high-level ethnographic research and analysis, foresight recommendations for strategic direction, and sophisticated concept prototypes, based on contextual scenarios and needs.

Vodafone presentation on research methodology — UPA Europe 2008
Engaging Developing Markets — article in Interfaces Magazine