Making the most of research + Climate Change Hackathon Winner
Guest post by Faysel Aden, Senior Manager of UX
👋🏾 Salaam, we are Somalis in Tech and welcome to our monthly newsletter. Each month we’ll bring you the latest from the community, tech news and a community Q&A.
October’s been a busy month 😅 we’re coming off the back of our annual Hackathon- an exciting weekend filled with coding, community and creativity. We’ve provided a run-down of the weekend for you below.
Somalis in Tech’s Virtual Hackathon: Climate Change
As you know, we just held our grand finale of the hackathon and what a show it was!
This year's hackathon focused on developing tech solutions to support the fight against Climate Change in the Horn of Africa. Safe to say, the teams didn’t disappoint. We saw some amazing solutions, like an app tackling waste disposal and an SMS web app designed to reduce food waste. From Warsame Waste to Xalimo Thunberg - we were blown away by the creativity and innovation teams displayed this weekend.
Whilst they all did amazingly well, there was one team that had that extra bit of sauce and so we’d like to congratulate Team 4 - Somalia Trees who showed off a working demo of their platform where you can purchase a tree planted by a local farmer. Big shout out to
You can check out their website here: www.somaliatrees.com
Amal Hussein, principal software engineer at Indigo joined us as a judge and panellist, and did an excellent job livening up the event with her feedback.
Our Hackathon's aim was to connect the community to solve real problems and provide an opportunity for our members to double down on their existing skills and even pick up a new thing or two to add to their repertoire.
This weekend we’ve been joined by several guest speakers who have led workshops for participants. We’d like to thank them for their time and advice.
Yasmin Sidat, Product Manager @ Open Money
Muntasir Syed, Senior Engineer @ Scoodle & Co-founder @ DeenDevelopers
Ismael Jeilani, Co-founder @ Scoodle
Yusuf Ahmed, Regional Director for East Africa @ Islamic Relief
You can watch the finale and team presentations below.👇🏾
Become a mentor
A big thank you to all those who applied to be a mentor! We are now planning to roll out the programme more widely.
When one of us succeeds, we all win! Help us on our journey to uplift each other and push for more Somali representation in the tech industry.
We’d like prospective mentors to fill out this application. Our community relies upon us exchanging knowledge and mutual support. Please do take the time to fill out the form - it only takes 5 minutes! If you would like more information on mentoring, and why you should do it, here are 5 reasons.
Question: How important is user research when founding a startup?
In our first newsletter, we announced our new Community Q&A. The gist is - you can send us a subject specific question, and we’ll find you a community expert who can answer it. (Kind of like a SiT Agony Aunt.🤔). I’ve got a question.
Faysel is a Senior Manager of UX at American Express where he specialises in building and running enterprise UX Research programs and labs.
Below Faysel gives us his thoughts on what research is, why you should do UX research, how you can do user research and what questions you should ask when doing research.
The best place to find Faysel is on Twitter so follow him @fayseladen
Making the most of research
By Faysel Aden
What is research?
The field of research is massive.
It’s one word that means many things, in essence, research is the work of building knowledge and the practice of research, encompasses all the methods, techniques, theoretical perspectives, tools and processes we, researchers, use in systematically collecting and analysing information, data and making sense of data within our specific context.
In our industry, research often refers to the context of user experience (UX) and in UX, research is how we make sense of the worlds our users find themselves in so that we can deliver products that resonate and impact our users positively.
In UX research, we research how our user experiences the products we put between them and the thing they need to get done, and hopefully, we also extend our exploration of their experience in understanding what they need to get done, how that activity fits into their lives and how we might make a difference for them by helping them get things done more quickly, more easily or with less drama.
The work of building knowledge about users and creating more understanding is just not limited to the field of UX Research, it’s also Customer Experience (CX), Analytics, Experimentation and Market Research.
The methods and learnings for each differ and theoretical perspectives behind them differ but each is a source of a type of evidence, and evidence is what you need as a founder before you go build that thing.
Why do UX Research?
Research and specifically UX research is core to building products that are designed around people. UX Research allows you to understand what your users need, want, think and feel, and as you collect evidence around your user's needs, wants, thoughts and feelings the data enables you to be more sure about the decisions you want to make within your domain.
In essence, UX research is not just about evaluating design, but it’s also a core driver of change through the collection of evidence and actionable insights used to help you make better evidence-based decisions.
Without it, you make assumptions about your user's needs, wants and attitudes. These assumptions accrue debt and making too many assumptions often lead to building products that do not resonate with users or markets and in the worse cases, products and businesses that fail.
How can you do user research?
UX Research fundamentally answers two questions:
Who are our users and what are they trying to do?
Can people use the thing we've designed to solve their problems?
You answer the first question by going into the "field visit" (a user's environment and/or space) and you answer the second by conducting a user test.
With a field visit (ethnography) you can learn if you are “building the right thing” for your users, in other words, “Am I solving a/the problem?” and with a user test, you can learn if you have “designed the thing right”, in other words, is my solutions to the problem usable, desirable and functional for users.
The methods of research you need to do depend on where you are in your development lifecycle.
In the early parts of a development cycle, you should be thinking about and carrying out field research to explore your problem space with the goal of understanding who your users are and what they are trying to do. In other words, "who am I trying to solve problems for and what problems are they facing?"
Later on, in the development cycle, you need to take a closer look at your proposed solution and evaluate the problem solution, this is best done through a usability test. Usability tests help you evaluate the usefulness, effectiveness, functionality of your problem solution by conducting task-based research on your solution. In essence, you answer the question “can people use the thing we've designed to solve their problems?”
Some useful questions to ask yourself before you start doing research:
Do I know my problem space?
Who are my users?
How do users operate in my problem space?
What problem(s) am I looking to solve in my problem space?
Have I solved problems in my problem space?
Can users use my solution to the problem?
Do users see value in my solution?
In summary, as a founder, creator or engineer you simply need to ask two questions with UX Research:
Is there a user problem that needs to be solved?
Have I solved the problem?
These two questions seem simple on the surface but once you begin to try to answer them you uncover the layers of assumptions you may have made and/or forget to validate with research. Uncovering answers to questions 1 & 2 will enable you to take the first steps in building products that solve peoples problems and resonate with users.
To learn more about UX Research, check the following links:
Software engineering careers at GDS for under-represented groups (UK based)
If you are interested in finding out what it's like to work as a developer, frontend developer, site reliability engineer or technical architect at GDS, please join us!
Tuesday 9th November 12pm-1pm GMT
Wednesday 17th November 17:30 - 18:30 GMT
Sign up here: Eventbrite
Content shared by the community
Watch: Climate Change Hackathon Finale shared by SiT
Read: 4 Tech jobs for people who don’t code shared by Ali Ibrahim
Listen: Quran.Cafe built by Mohamud Mussa