People intrigue me. This has remained a constant throughout my life and it’s what motivated me to learn about how user experience (UX) design could compliment my work in architecture and project management.

When I began Springboard’s UX Design course, my goal was to transition into a UX design career. Over the course of the program, however, my goals shifted, and I soon realized that I wanted to create a startup and develop my own product.

Here are five things I learned in my UX course that are helping me along my product journey:

Pick an Idea You Connect With

When I started the program, my idea was to work on an app related to travel. But after a few weeks, I noticed that I didn’t feel a real connection to that idea. As a result, I found it challenging to develop a research plan. This was a pivotal moment because it occurred to me that I could use this course as an opportunity to work on something that resonated with me on a deeper level. As a Kenyan-American, I had a long-held desire to work on a project in Kenya, and I also wanted to work with creative entrepreneurs, so I decided to focus on creating an e-commerce app through which Kenyan designers could sell their products. My course would serve as a starting point for the product design.

Research Your Heart Out

User research is and continues to be invaluable. The discovery phase was the first point of engagement with my potential users. During the course, I learned how to craft a research plan, develop interview questions, and set goals for what I wanted to learn about my users. Identifying my target market, surveying, and interviewing potential users in Kenya shed light on their expectations, behaviors, needs, and points of struggle. In some cases, what I thought were problems really weren’t. Through conversation, users guided me to their true problems. Even now, as I continue to develop the product, I spend an ample amount of time interviewing users because I want to create a product that people will use.

Prototypes Are Your Friend

If you can build your vision, then you have the power to shape your product. Your prototype is a bridge between your concept and the product. During the course, I learned how to create a prototype to test the mobile app design remotely with users in Kenya. I was able to observe how they moved through the app, what did or didn’t make sense to them, and any areas where I could improve the design. The beauty in prototyping is the fluidity; you can make quick changes, test your concerns, and gather feedback within a short timeframe.

Validate Your Product Idea

“Investors today don’t value intellectual property, but traction.” – Ash Maurya (Lean Stack)

Of all the course lessons, this had the greatest impact because it revealed how people respond to my product. Showing your business idea is far more effective than telling people about it. During the course, I learned the value of a minimum viable product (MVP), which is a tangible way to validate your idea. Creating an MVP pushes you to consider the core value you are providing to customers. We are currently in the validation phase and our MVP is a website with our product offering. We use it to approach potential customers, observe their response, and gather feedback to inform our business decisions. As we refine our idea, we still implement user research. With an MVP, you can start to attract your first customers and see if people are willing to pay for your product.

Utilize Your Springboard Mentor

My mentor, Catherine Hicks, played an instrumental role in my UX curriculum because I had someone with extensive experience who could provide guidance and feedback. I emailed questions at all times of day and my mentor was always accessible and willing to help. Learning a new discipline can be daunting, especially if you work full-time, but my mentor helped walk me through the lesson each week and provided real-world examples.

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These five lessons have guided me along my journey to develop a meaningful product for the Kenyan market: Select an idea that you connect with because you will be more invested in the outcome. Get to know your user through research, as it offers a richer context to build a product. A prototype breathes life into your vision. Use an MVP to interact with your potential customers. Validate your idea and seek insight from your mentor. Springboard taught me important UX principles and provided the essentials needed to develop a product. Now I’m armed with the tools to act and create the career that I want: a startup in the business of people.

This post was written by Wanja Wambu. Wanja is a designer, researcher, and storyteller currently working on a B2B platform for the Kenyan market. 

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