Jason Hobbs on the South African Experience

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Today on Radio Johnny, Werner Puchert chats with User Experience specialist at the Investec Group in South Africa, Jason Hobbs. Jason shares the challenges facing the UX community in South Africa and how designers can assist in bringing real world solutions to both the people and businesses throughout Africa.


The thing that requires the most effort [in building the South African UX community] is stimulating the community with content! It needs the voices and it needs the issues and concerns of the members of the community.

Perhaps the one big issue that we face in South Africa is that we don’t have a culture of design… We have a much stronger engineering culture in terms of producing innovation and as a space for problem solving. We certainly don’t have anything like the design council in the UK… a real drive to throwing design at problems, real world problems not just business problems…

A broader concept of what design is needs support in South Africa. There are many ways to solve problems, design is one incredibly powerful tool which is gaining momentum around the world and we should be embracing it. For a place like South Africa, within Africa, with so many human challenges like health and education… we should be considering every weapon in any conceivable armory to try and address these things. It’s just a major opportunity for design and we need to be pushing it!


Jason taps into his international experience drawing parallels between that and the local South African UX practice. He has played a key role in establishing the South African UX forum and talks about the challenges the practice faces especially around the lack of mentorship and senior practitioners being available to drive growth.

Investec, with their customer led philosophy, is the exception to the rule according to Jason. Selling UX to the greater community is still a challenge and thinking in a more holistic, customer centric way is something African’s really need to consider.

Show Notes

* Jason Hobbs’ blog
* Follow Werner Purchert on twitter
* Journal of Information Architecture Article: Maturing a Practice (J. Hobbs, T. Fenn, & A. Resmini)
* South African UX Forum
* JH-01 Concepts Between Clicks (Downloadable pdf documents)
* 2008 IA Summit Hotel Yeoville (Slideshare)


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Werner Purchert

4 comments on this article

  1. Vicky Teinaki on

    Cheers for the different perspective. The stats of internet/tech usage you quote in SA — only 10% (5m of a 50m population) on with broadband internet, 20% with smartphones, and 94% with cellphones — are fascinating in how different they are from what designers in most Western countries are used to.

  2. Werner on

    Hi Vicky,

    If you want mass market reach within South Africa mobile is the best digital channel in your messaging arsenal. 

    Some folks even carry two sim cards leveraging peak calling times and ‘free minutes’ based on whatever the carrier offers. In truth, I had some research stating a mobile penetration of over 104%. Since then, government introduced legislation that requires users to register their simcards (proof of residence etc.) – the percentage dropped to 94%.

    ‘Mobile first’ is definitely something I believe we need to focus on here in Africa. 

    If you’re interested in the way mobile is used in Africa – look at the MPesa banking offer. Similar in many aspects to the NFC stuff but with low-end devices in mind, basically using the mobile device as an ‘e-wallet’.

    Thanks for your feedback – much appreciated. 🙂

  3. Having lead workshops on Information Architecture and User Experience in Jamaica recently, the stats on mobile use in that country are on par with what you and Jason discussed, Werner.

    Great conversation with you and Jason – thanks to you both for taking the time to share and provide insights to the global design community; ideas that will hopefully inspire others around the world to meet the needs of the African community.


  4. Pingback: Less baffling and more African-doing! | Werner Puchert