If you had asked me when I was a teenager why I coded, I would have answered “because it’s cool to code”. If you had asked me when I was starting out as a software developer why I coded, I would have answered “because I want to be the best developer”. As I matured as a programmer, I felt that creating technology for the sake of technological progress is an aimless and hollow pursuit; eventually, I realised that good technology must be purposeful.
Purposeful technology must serve the needs of people, thus, the key to creating purposeful technology is the concept of UX/UI design (User Experience and User Interface Design). UX/UI design puts the users at the centre of the design process, every single design decision is made with the users’ experience as the top priority. This ensures a product that will truly satisfy the needs of the users. The philosophy of UX/UI design is best demonstrated by the creation of “Beacon Interface”:
We began by forming a focus group of the visually impaired. We interviewed each of them to identify the pain points they have with current mobile applications and to gain user empathy. This is known as the Empathise stage.(pic 1,2,3,4)
After much interviewing, we synthesised the observations we had made during the Empathise stage to define the real problems the visually impaired had with mobile applications. This is known as the Define stage. (pic 5,6)
Next is the Ideate stage. We brainstormed multiple ideas to solve the problems defined in the Define stage. A large quantity of solutions was generated, this was then filtered and cut down into the best, most practical, most user-friendly ones.(Pic 7,8,9 ,10)
One month after the ideate stage, the first “Beacon Interface” prototypes were created. We called another focus group to test our prototype and chose the best received design. This is known as the prototype and test stages. (pic 11,12,13,14)
Although this UX/UI design process have been described simply here, in reality the process was not linear. We constantly had to go back and forth between stages to make changes to our designs, the process was more like: (pic 15)
This non-linear process contained many cycles and many iterations of “Beacon Interface”, with each iteration satisfying users’ needs better than the previous one.
After the design of “Beacon Interface” was finalised, our developers coded up the design, and we began testing the design outside of focus groups.
The reception of “Beacon Interface” has been overwhelmingly positive. We won the Global Fintech Hackcelerator Award at the Singapore Fintech Festival: (pic 16,17)
Reception from potential users has been no less enthusiastic: (pic 18,19,20)
Winning the Global Fintech Hackcelerator Award is a great achievement for our team, but the true reward of this project is not an award. The true reward of this project is the knowledge that our code has made a positive change, it is the knowledge that we have created technology that is purposeful, for us, this is worth more than any award.
Working on the “Beacon Interface” project has been a truly transformative experience for me, the memory of seeing the faces of the visually impaired light up when they used our product now serves as a constant reminder of the reason why I code.
On a final note, if you are a developer or a technologist, I encourage you to ask yourself if the technology you are creating is purposeful.
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