It all started when a group of students at the Fugee School challenged the idea that girls should be given the same opportunities as boys. The newly formed youth-led Project Stand Up (PSU) initiative became a platform for supporting youth leadership, particularly around issues of gender equality and equal access to learning opportunities.

They brainstormed and came up with a solution: an app and training programme to help reduce the number of girls not attending school to help with household chores. The app would allow families whose daughters are enrolled in school to make a booking for household chores that they may need extra help with, and therefore allowing the girl extra time to pursue her formal and informal learning and activities. The ‘Champions’, or volunteers involved with PSU, would visit these households in pairs, one boy and one girl, and help with the chores and to show that is ok and normal to share the household responsibilities. This would all take place in a refugee community based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, consisting of Somali, Yemeni, and Libyan families.

Vidushi visiting the PSU team in Kuala Lulmpur
Vidushi visiting the PSU team in Kuala Lulmpur

Vidushi is a UX designer and researcher based in Sydney, who was introduced to a HOST employee through one of her professors at school. She is currently completing a masters in design from UNSW and joined the PSU team as a volunteer consultant, which quickly evolved into a key position in the team. Over the next few months, she supported PSU in providing feedback to the developers and helped supervise the user experience remotely.

The PSU team designed the concept and basic wireframe and Vidushi developed the front screens. Since Vidushi cannot speak Somali or Arabic, she was unable to conduct the user testing which is a methodology used to obtain user feedback in a controlled environment. As a result, she worked closely with the PSU team and trained them to conduct user testing on their own. This was a huge task as the PSU team had not done this before and had to learn new skills quickly.

After the launch of the app, Vidushi visited the team in March of this year to evaluate the process.

Refining of the app

Project Stand Up is more than just providing a service to families so that girls can attend school; it is also an initiative for youth to solve gender equality problems.

It became the Champions’ new goal to enlighten their community about gender gaps and show that men and women could work together as equals. They achieved this by conducting workshops in the school to promote shared responsibilities in the home and the Champions became role models by demonstrating this to the students.

This was the first time where Vidushi conducted research without speaking the same language as the user. Even though the Champions acted as translators, it was still a difficult process. A question would be asked in English and then the Champions would translate what they understood to be the question, the user would roughly understand the question and respond, followed by an English translation of what the user had just said.

“My go-to method of breaking the ice was useless in this case because I couldn’t crack jokes,” said Vidushi. “I was also constantly worried about using any culturally inappropriate remarks which would be offensive, but thankfully it went fine.

Once I asked my questions, I wanted to observe them use the app as this is where I’m able to obtain the most information. I refused to help them in any way and asked them to do two simple tasks: request a service and then cancel that same service that they had just requested.

From a designer’s perspective, we thought we had done a clean job in putting the app together, yet we had missed so many things in the design!

The first thing I learned was no one was reading anything that was written on the screens. They worked their way around the app based on just muscle memory and were apologetic when it wasn’t working. None of the users complained about the user experience or that it wasn’t functioning at its optimum. User testing consists of several stages and identifying key obstacles in the user experience is what face-to-face testing is for.

UX design flaws

“The number one rule of UX design is it is never the user’s fault! It is always the fault of the design. It was straight forward in where we had to amend our design flaws – if users don’t want to read words, give them images. I also changed the screens by adding bigger images and icons.

Since they were working based on recognition of visual cues, we enhanced the number of these cues. These are simple changes and I would not have picked up on any of it had I not actually met the users face-to-face.

I have been working with apps for the past five years and I haven’t met a team this eager to gain knowledge. The Champions are like a family who really care for each other and are constantly looking out for one another. The PSU youth team have taught themselves how to make and edit videos, design, write blogs, conduct user research, speak in a public setting, and the list goes on. I have observed them become more confident over the course of the year and I can only hope to be a continued source of help support to them!”

Project Stand UP