In developing countries like Kenya, authorities don’t have the capacity to assess traffic patterns and help inform people’s commutes, which in Nairobi, can be three hours long. Public transportation is rarely an option, so everyone is on the road. In addition to traffic, drivers also encounter systemic challenges like outdated infrastructures and crowding from urban influx.
So instead of waiting, companies attempt to fill the gap. Despite the goal to benefit everyone on the roads and taking time to incorporate community commute knowledge and partner with city councils, the good intentions may not make it to the user. Designing for and responding to the user experience can be a road block for a successful project.
Ma3Route set out to improve the commutes of their users by providing real-time information on traffic in Kenya. With 500,000 active users and 40,000 app downloads, they’re a leader for traffic information in east Africa.
Ma3Route wanted to improve service in current cities and improve mobility in emerging cities by leveraging community engagement and crowdsourcing. First, they needed a better understanding of their users’ actual experiences.
Ma3Route collects a mass of data on traffic in many cities, but it gives a false sense of the actual user experience.
Together, we set out to discover how their hundreds of thousands of users approached the app and what changes could make it better, specifically for them.
To define Ma3Route users’ background, behaviour, motivations, and needs; DataShift funded a UX research project conducted by iHub, a company that catalyses technological growth.
Looking at the data already being collected and asking questions, they identified the project needs and scope. Next, they brought in a broad representation of Ma3Route’s users in terms of demographics and behaviours for a research and market study.
They guided and ran focus groups and UX exercises, involved participatory design and observational research like role-play, design challenges, and accompanied users on field trips into Nairobi traffic.
To inform the design; UX researchers observed and synthesised what people do in traffic, their responses and behaviours responding to challenges, how they used the app, and what else people wanted the app to do.
This process will culminate in a report written by iHub UX.
After the DataShift, Ma3Route designs with their users, not for, and the benefits extended beyond the road.
“Just being able to engage face-to-face with users, collecting feedback, was powerful. We are a tech company. We always see a lot of data from the back end, but it was amazing to see real people using it.”
User experience can’t be imagined. It’s even often unexpected and can help you think about your own project in new ways. Stephane Eboko, Ma3Route CEO, was struck by a woman’s statement in the focus group:
“Driving in Nairobi is like a business. You need to know your clients inside out. You need to know your roads inside out. How do you know that the info on the platform is right?”
Ma3Route is now committed to user-driven development. They’re hiring a UX/UI designer to incorporate our findings by the end of this year.
They’re investigating other opportunities to make and measure impact, like tracking the time their users save as a result of using the app.
Ma3Route exists because “Africa is rising, but if it’s stuck in traffic, this will stop.” They’ve built more than just a user base; they’ve built a growing community of people who care about Africa and are eager to contribute to keep Africa moving upwards and onwards.