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8 Recommendations for Better User Testing of Mobile Products for Women

By Guest Writer on February 6, 2015


I was recently in Bangladesh, working with the GSMA Connected Women Innovation Fund grantee BRAC Bangladesh to conduct user testing for their mobile education product with teenage female users. As outlined in a previous blog post, BRAC is working with Robi Axiata and the British Council to create a mobile learning service aimed at improving employability for rural adolescent girls. The service aims to teach English through IVR with a view to helping users be more employable in major industries such as the ICT industry or the garment industry.

User testing is an invaluable step in creating any mobile product. It helps the mobile operator or NGO get the product or service right for the audience, and understand any issues or pain points that may affect usage, as well as understanding potential pricing, marketing strategies and willingness to pay – all factors that affect whether a product is successful in the market. It’s particularly important to user test a mobile product for women.

This is because female users tend to have lower levels of technical literacy (and confidence) and so a complicated menu is more likely to cause problems for female users. Likewise with the actual content – women tend to be less likely to use products if they don’t see them as wholly relevant to their needs, so it’s important to understand whether the content is suitable for the female audience, and if not, why not.

Conducting consumer insights before developing a product is crucial to understanding your audience – and user testing is the next logical step in understanding whether the product you’ve developed is, in fact, the right one.

In the Bangladesh user testing, BRAC, Robi and British Council found that the educational content, storylines and characters for the mobile learning product tested extremely well with the target audience – helped, in part, by the in-depth consumer insights they carried out prior to developing the product.

However, the voice menu-based registration system proved very challenging for the users: it was designed to capture information about the user including age, education and geographical location, but the team soon realised that there were too many fields in this section, meaning that users got confused. As this was the first step in signing up for the service, this told Robi and BRAC that this section needed to be simplified significantly in order not to deter users from the very beginning. User testing in this case helped the team to understand what works and what doesn’t work, while there’s still time to make these changes to the product.

Clearly, there are excellent reasons to user test a mobile product for women, with women. Observing the Bangladesh user testing helped pull out 8 key points to consider when user testing a product for women:

  1. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The Bangladesh user testing cost $5,000 USD for fifty tests in five different locations around the country. And yet the return on investment by making those necessary changes is likely to be large because making sure the product is right will ensure easy adoption and maximum uptake.
  2. User testing can be done at the same time as the soft launch – if the timeline is planned accordingly. Mobile operators often resist user testing because of the potential delays to launch – but if it is done during the soft launch, changes can be incorporated in time for the commercial launch
  3. Go to the women – don’t expect them to come to you. Female users are often reluctant to travel to the main cities to take part in user testing, because of time constraints or security concerns – and yet mobile operators have traditionally conducted user testing in or near their head offices. Robi and BRAC conducted user testing in locations near the adolescent girls’ homes – meaning they didn’t have to travel far and so were more likely to attend
  4. Partnerships with NGOs can get access to these female users in their own environment, something mobile operators have tended to struggle with. In the Bangladesh case, Robi gained access to the adolescent girls through BRAC’s extensive network and community engagement.
  5. Use female facilitators to conduct the user testing – and think carefully about age. Women are more comfortable with women – particularly if they are individual tests, and are more comfortable with women they can relate to. Because the Bangladesh product is aimed at adolescent girls, the moderators were young women, and so the atmosphere was more relaxed and chatty – which meant users were more likely to be honest, and not embarrassed if they ran into difficulties
  6. Use open-ended, qualitative, questions in a conversational style – focus on the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, not the ‘what’. The Bangladesh user testing script used open questions such as ‘Tell me about….’ And What is your opinion of…’ , which encouraged the girls to talk in a lot of detail about their opinions of the product.
  7. Conduct tests individually. Female users are often less confident and may be embarrassed about finding things difficult – and this can be amplified if they are part of a group. BRAC and Robi did individual tests, to make the users more comfortable and encourage them to express their own opinions more honestly
  8. Incorporate observation – and a (female) observer. BRAC and Robi included an extra person in the user test just to observe the user as she went through the educational service. A lot of information and nuances can be gleaned from body language and expressions, which the facilitator may miss if she is making notes and leading the conversation. Having an extra woman in the room to act as observer can pick up on how the users interact with the product and identify any pain points that the user may not articulate.

As a result of this user testing, BRAC and Robi are now sure that they have a good product, content-wise, that is relevant to their audience’s needs. Changes will be made to the voice-based registration menu to simplify it significantly. And as this example from Bangladesh shows, user testing is such an important step in product development, especially for women, and product improvement should be an integral part of the work plan from the very beginning.

Alexandra Tyers is the Insights Manager at GSMA Connected Women

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3 Comments to “8 Recommendations for Better User Testing of Mobile Products for Women”

  1. Tanya says:

    Could you expand on this, “women tend to be less likely to use products if they don’t see them as wholly relevant to their needs”? Specifically, do we know what motivates men to use products that they don’t believe to be relevant to their needs?

  2. Lisa says:

    That’s a good question, Tanya – it will be interesting to hear the response. One idea I have is that because men tend to be more digitally literate, maybe they are more comfortable trying a new technology even if they don’t know 100% that it will help them or be relevant to them. For example, if you want to convince your grandma to get a computer, it’s probably more convincing to tell her: “you can email your grandkids!” instead of “you can play Farmville on Facebook!” But after she already has the computer, it is probably easier to get her to check out Farmville 🙂

    This is a really great post with a lot of insightful info. Great to see user testing highlighted as a key point, and also great to see IVR being used; SMS gets a lot of press, but IVR is especially good for less literate (either alphabetically or digitally) and vulnerable populations.

  3. Many interesting and innovative things are being happened , This is one of them which is very close to me but I came to know just! So now got my answer why Bangladesh economy is growing and why we can think that we are going to reach middle income countries not only in statistically but also inherently.