On the journey of the Google UX design certificate, I have learned many interesting topics and concepts. NBU is one of them which I wanted to share.

User experience doesn’t just focus on the experience of existing users; it also pays special attention to people who are about to become internet users. These are the people around the world getting online for the very first time. Globally, there are a billion people right now just starting to use the internet — these folks are the Next Billion Users or NBU.

Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Understanding the Next Billion Users is crucial as a UX designer and to get into the mindset of people who are new to the internet. The challenges around the NBU can be divided into four points:

  • Cost
  • Connectivity
  • Digital literacy
  • Literacy

The first big issue is cost. People might not be able to afford expensive phones with big screens and lots of storage. For example, when a new internet user buys a less expensive phone with low RAM, it means that the phone might load webpages more slowly and people might have problems trying to download files. To solve this problem, a company is not likely to lower its standard price. Instead, it's up to us, UX designers, with a lot of help from engineers, to figure out how to improve storage without raising the price point. The ability to temporarily disable apps is one way UX designers and engineers can make this happen.

Next, users might not have constant or unlimited access to the internet which is the connectivity issue. It’s very much possible that a lot of our Next Billion Users don’t have continuous access to the internet. This might be because the data they have purchased has run out or because their network coverage is inconsistent. UX designers should try to find ways to make the offline experience as rich as the online experience.

Digital literacy is also a crucial issue. People might not be familiar with certain design patterns, calls to action, or icons that we take for granted. For example, they might not know what swipe means in relation to a touchscreen. When designing for our Next Billion Users, it is the responsibility of a UX designer to consider things like video tutorials to help new users understand how to install and to use an app and explore new features with greater confidence.

Final issue to keep in mind is literacy. Some users aren’t able to read while others might need to switch languages depending on what they’re trying to do. To solve this issue, designing a multilingual keyboard, and using universally understood icons (e.g. an icon with an airplane sign for a travel app) are just a few key ways UX designers can make it easier for the Next Billion Users.

Are you ready to address the design challenges for the Next Billion Users for your project? I’ll be keen to learn more about your design work. Let’s connect!

My weekly blog on learning about UX/UI from Google’s UX Design Professional Certificate courses.