Whatever is worth building is worth designing well

I’ve spent one month in California, and more than ever before I can see that design works. The internet works. The reality in which complex lines of code simplify and enrich lives here is amazing. It’s evident in Amazon Prime and the Echo, voice ordering and precise tracking, Ubers and Google’s amazing traffic mapping, bank and personal finance apps, easy swipe and online payments, on-demand cleaners, car rentals and so much more. Every bit of life here has been made easier by technology and design, executed well. The internet revolution is real, it’s changing the world.

We begin to understand that the Internet Revolution IS in fact the Industrial Revolution of our time. It’s a sweeping social disruption that brings with it not only new inventions and scientific advances, but perhaps most importantly revolutionizes both the methods of work and we the workers ourselves.

Despite our economic troubles, Nigeria is also on this revolution. I think we missed the industrial revolution, and so we’re hanging on to this one, albeit slowly. There are basic building blocks for making this work though, and they include good accessible internet, quality labour and payments. You need good connectivity to fully adopt the internet, good local talent to do the work and a functioning payments infrastructure for monetization.

Professionally, I’m a digital designer. I’m not the best one you’ll find but I keep honing my skills to make the most impact. I’m armed with Sketch, CSS and Javascript and I want to use that to make the most contribution I can to this revolution. I cofounded Devcenter to curate the best talent, connect them and provide as much exposure and learning. I work with Paystack to bury this problem of accepting money online. I believe my work is way more important than the code and images, which are just a means to an end. It’s like making a hammer for carpenters, except this is the internet revolution and I’m designing the best damn handle for that hammer.

Many Nigerian Internet founders don’t think this way. For them, their startup is the quickest way to be called a CEO, and not a contribution to a revolution.

No founder is allowed to ignore the design of their product anymore. People familiar with the internet have enough access to see that it can be done better. They have a choice, and your execution is a big factor in their decision. On the other hand, the people just getting on the internet need it to be simple and usable to adopt fast. The better your design, the warmer your welcome hug.

Every now and again, new products are shared on Devcenter and Radar, and it’s sad to see how design is ignored. Good design and usability is a standard, not a feature. If you build the most effective hammer head with a soft rubber handle, it’s useless to the carpenter. If we’re really trying to create ease through technology for consumers and even governance, we need to make sure our products are designed for use.

I’ll give you an example. Everyone — from popular VCs to other startup owners — that we’ve met in Silicon Valley has commended Paystack’s design. Not because it’s phenomenal, but because it’s good first impression. It presents us as serious, able to compete beyond our country. It’s really that important. We’re working hard to build infrastructure to fix payments, but it’s of no difference to the consumer if we’re not designing an easier way for them to pay online. It makes no difference to the thousands of businesses that are getting on the internet if they can’t easily setup and visibly navigate their sales. Beyond the great work under the scenes, we need to provide actual value to everyone, through design.

You don’t need to be a designer. Your interface doesn’t have to be a website or an app. It could be SMS, USSD or a physical connected product. But on whatever platform, check examples of similar products to learn what your customers will expect. Read about design and usability. Employ a designer. Pay attention. Test your product with small groups before pushing it out. Get feedback. Build the best version of your product, with every version you push out. Make sure people can use it. If it’s worth something, and worth building, design it well.

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