In a series of four articles I reflect on UX design on Curaçao from my standpoint of a User Experience designer who arrived on the island 6 months ago, from the hustle and bustle of London. It has been an eye-opening and exciting journey so far, and I am excited to see where the road ahead will take me.
Shining a light on the differences between UX design here and elsewhere, for example in Europe, I have so far written about the developing awareness of UX on Curaçao, the current state of its digital world, and how a little UX can go a long way by applying existing knowledge and design patterns.
In this final article I address how we are sometimes limited by externals factors, such as organizational or infrastructural limitations, and how users still have high expectations because of what they encounter outside the bounds of these limitations.
Challenges and creative problem-solving
No matter how good a software solution is, without the necessary organization or infrastructure in place, it will not work as well as intended. For example, here on Curaçao tax processes are still predominantly handled on paper. While the aim is to facilitate online tax filing, a complete transition is not yet on the horizon.
In the meantime, digitized tax records and processes work best if there are fast and reliable scanners available and there are dedicated people responsible for scanning. It becomes a lot more challenging if people have to drop their other activities to scan one page at a time on a flatbed scanner before they can finish their task.
As a UX designer here I am often faced with such challenges. Where the client only specifies that “the document needs to be scanned and attached to a record”, it becomes part of my job to think about who is going to do that and how they are going to keep track of which scanned file is part of which record. Of course there are technical solutions available in advanced scanning equipment, but if this is not the equipment they will be using, I’ll have to design creative work-arounds that are still user-friendly.
Similarly, through limitations in infrastructure, online payment is still very much in its infancy here: monthly bills are payed in the pharmacy or supermarket, card transactions are not supported, iDEAL does not exist, and PayPal’s functionality is limited. Truly shocking to someone who comes from the world of online shopping, direct debits, and contactless payments.
We thus face the challenges around making online bank transactions as easy as possible, while struggling with 16-digit payment references and equally long bank account numbers that cannot be posted to the online banking pages but have to be typed in manually.
Needless to say, UX on Curaçao requires some creative problem-solving in sailing the unruly waters of local digital infrastructures and technical limitations. As much as UX can thus shape the digital world of Curaçao, the island also shapes the way we apply and realize UX solutions.
User expectations know no geographical bounds
Naturally, people on Curaçao are not confined to only using such local websites and infrastructures. Curaçao is home to over 50 different nationalities, many of which are bound to have come across excellent UX in their respective home countries. Moreover, the internet is a global place without geographical borders, where well-known websites and platforms set a high bar for UX.
Despite people’s location and the state of technology in their direct vicinity, they will encounter such international examples on a daily basis. Therefore, they still form expectations around how a website or a software system is supposed to work. They will expect things to work well, to be user-friendly.
At the moment there seems to be a big divide between what they come to expect in everyday (international) web browsing, and what they dare to expect in their work life and local transactions. Perhaps this frustrates them, or perhaps they have learned over the years to stop dreaming about better UX.
Shaping UX on Curaçao
The current state of local technology, infrastructure, and organization is no excuse not to aim for better UX on Curaçao. Just because the competitor doesn’t have it yet either, or because the infrastructure isn’t quite ready yet, it does not mean that we should just give up, just wait and see what happens. That simply does not fly in this interconnected world – at least, it will not make our users happy. In the previous article I have advocated that we stop torturing our users – this is another chance to put away the whips and the thumbscrews.
Challenges can be overcome with user-friendly work-arounds for now. And let’s not forget about our ideas for improvement, so that when the time comes that anything is possible, we’re ready. We can work towards high standards of UX on Curaçao, both in everyday websites and in complicated back-office systems. We can learn from the top-notch examples that are out there and apply these in new application areas.
We can shape the digital world of Curaçao through UX design, and at the same time give our UX methods and solutions that Caribbean vibe. Let’s raise the bar on those user expectations, and continue to exceed these expectations by realizing steep and steady UX progress on Curaçao.
Give me a few years to see what I can do.