Insights - Next Billion Stories

Expert Design Tips for the Next Billion Users

Sumit Gwalani, (Co-founder, EpiFi) Shayak Sen (Head of Design, Meesho) and Vivekananda Pani (Cofounder, Reverie Technologies) give advice on designing for the next billion.

1. The interface should feel natural and close to real-life behaviour

Sumit Gwalani, Co-founder, EpiFi, (earlier Director, Product Management, Google Pay, Next Billion Users at Google India)

Sumit Gwalani, was part of the team that built Google Pay in India. He says the team went through multiple iterations to create something that mirrored user behavior in real life. Here are two design decisions as examples:

  1. The most natural and easiest way for people to recall payments, was to remember the person they transacted with. This was the foundation on which Google Pay’s entity based transaction interface was built. At a time when payments between people were built for their functional appeal, Google Pay hedged its bet on adding a dimension of entity based design. This was their game-changer for payments.
  2. Rewards were given via gamification and the now famous scratch cards, which have been a resounding success for Google Pay. This was also based on insights from user behavior. The team observed that across segments, users tended to automatically scratch when handed a scratch card. It was an intuitive, fun form of rewards that didn’t need any explanation.

The mobile phone is the first device for the next billion users and it is more convenient for them to type than for users who grew up on laptops and desktops. Users generally don’t go beyond the homepage, so it is important to identify the most important features/decisions and present them upfront to the user.

2. Do not separate the user from her context

Shayak Sen (Head of Design, Meesho)

A large percentage of Meesho’s sellers are women from smaller towns and Shayak Sen says that the speaking to them overturned many long-held assumptions. Here are two of their big learnings:

  1. The identity of the women sellers is very closely tied to their families and anyone wanting to work with them must respect this lens. Everything they do is ultimately for the family, not so much for individual independence.
  2. Video content is gaining sharply in importance. Short, ‘snackable’ video clips are the best way to communicate with the next billion and disseminate information amongst them.

3. Start from first principles, don’t ‘translate’ English content or icons

Vivekananda Pani (Cofounder, Reverie Technologies)

Reverie Technologies has been providing Indic language support since 2009. Co-founder Vivekananda Pani says that the biggest mistake he has seen designers making, is to think ‘English-first’ and then translate for local use. Here are his recommendations:

  1. As a community, designers are used to templates, and this is a problem. Their default behavior is to keep the same templates and icons and then add text in the required language. The correct approach is to rethink every element on an interface in the context of the user. Pani recalls early research where a user thought that the shopping cart was the ‘radi’ that garbage collectors pushed on the streets.
  2. Form-factors are changing and design must allow for this. We went from keyboards to touch and now voice is gaining ground rapidly. Designers must think about the implications this has for design.

Based on a panel discussion with Meeta Malhotra, Founder, The Hard Copy, at Your Story’s Future of Work event

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