Research is done by students from Alliance University(India) and Centennial College(Canada) guided by Brett Matthews (Founder-Executive Director of My Oral Village). Year: 2018, Duration: 14 Days.
(At the time of working on this project, I had no knowledge about UX or UI)
Illiterates are finding it troublesome to manage their finances, whether it could be sending money to their family or managing their daily/monthly expenses. It takes a great amount of effort for them to walk to a local bank and have them help with these tasks. This project is an effort to simplify mobile wallets for oral users (illiterates) and make their life a little bit easier.
- Literate people absorb much information from contexts that illiterate people can’t access. This information comes in many formats: from text and arithmetic notation to literate hierarchies, abstractions, and mappings.
- Before a literate person must input data into a mobile money app, she may have seen signs, received as a demonstration from a friend or funds from a relative or heard explanations from an agent. At each step, literacy supports learning. An agent’s explanations are oral, but they do not stand alone, and she can quickly link them to other information to assemble a fuller picture.
- While using the app for the first time, she probably knows quite a bit about what to expect already and is watching for the text prompts that flag when she must make decisions, and the types of inputs she must make.
- By contrast, an illiterate individual cannot recognize the text prompts, no matter how well primed in advance. Signs, text messages, and brochures are much less accessible, and much verbal information may be ambiguous or even misleading. Each screen involves a decision-point that is important and supported by few clues about what is at stake, or what to do next.
Team and responsibilities
Brett Matthews — Guiding the project.
Abhijeet Sharma — Help with user interviews.
Sri Vidya — Gathering subjects for the project and location set up.
Sahith Nayudu(ME) — Come up with solutions, prototyping, conduct user interviews, and language translation.
Manikiran — Come up with solutions, documentation, and Help with user interviews.
Fabio — Design, and build wireframes.
Though we had our responsibilities everyone participated in conducting user interviews.
I and Manikiran were the only people in the team who spoke the local language and could understand and communicate the subjects.
What is “Orality”?
“Orality” refers to the modes of thinking, speaking, and managing information in societies where technologies of literacy (especially writing and print) are unfamiliar to most people. Orality encompasses not just speech but a wide range of modes for personal and collective information management that are preferred to text in oral cultures — from pictures, tallies, and cash, to apprenticeship, rituals, and songs.
- To develop the conceptual wireframe of a mobile wallet for ‘oral’ (illiterate and neo-literate) people to use.
- The oral segment includes about 264 million Indians (23 million youth aged 15–24).
- Most oral adults cannot decode multi-digit numeral strings (place-value) in large numbers, especially 4 or more digits (e.g. 5,045/5,405).
- This numeric cognitive disability will inhibit the use of mobile wallets, diverting users, whether literate or not, towards ‘over-the-counter’ markets.
- Most oral Indians are still not familiar with the new rupee symbol (₹).
- Men have learned stronger mental calculation skills than women.
- Skills increased with age in both sexes and across occupations dealing in cash.
The oral segment has many strengths to leverage, including the common ability to:
- read 1–2 digit numbers,
- count and manipulate 4-digit numeric sums using cash notes and coins — relying on color, proportional sizes, shapes, and images, as well as numbers.
The ‘neo numerate’ population (about 1 in 3 in our sample):
- They could decode only one or two of the three numeral strings we showed in screening, performed better in all parts of our detailed numeracy diagnostic test, and most could read with reasonable fluency.
Mobile Wallet for Oral:
- A unique user-centered design prioritizing usability and user experience in the oral segment.
- Uses oral information management (OIM) principles and devices.
- Offers a ‘sandbox’ where oral users can learn numeracy without risking financial loss.
- Uses devices like oral iconography, declarative/mnemonic pictures, color, gesture, and voice.
- The process involves rapid prototyping, iteration between design/field, and testing of usability to facilitate ‘guessability’ and learnability;
- Uses a unique cash-based ‘input-method editor’ (IME) so users can input large numbers safely.
- Has functionalities to send money, request money, add money, paying bills, and has an image-based phone book. Recommendations for financial service providers and other stakeholders.
- The oral segment should be treated as separate and distinct in digital financial services.
- Early adopters in the segment may include youths aged 25–35, adopters of other mobile phone features like calculators and address books.
- An open-source library of oral icons, addressing the full range of digital financial services, should be developed for India.
Research objective and background
Our objective was to develop a front-end customer interface for mobile wallets that addresses evidence-based usability constraints the oral (illiterate and semi-literate) market segment faces, thereby providing a superior customer experience.
As of 2017, the number of smartphones in India stood at 468 million and likely to reach 859 million smartphone users by 2022. (source: Business-Standard)
Screening (Signing, reading, and numeracy capabilities)
- A firm signature appears to be a fair proxy for the ability to read. Most of the respondents who could sign firmly were also able to read quickly. However, those who had infirm signatures — who still had not practiced at shaping the letters or had shaky erroneous signatures — and were slow in signing were far less likely to be able to read, even slowly.
- Numeracy was weaker than literacy: even among those who could sign firmly, only more than half could successfully read even one multi-digit number in ≤120 seconds.
- In each of the three categories, most people took longer to perform the numeracy task — they were asked to decipher three numeral strings 4702, 5097, and 63801 — than the other two tasks. They found it more difficult than the other tasks and committed more mistakes.
How Indian oral population identifies notes?
Curious to understand how illiterate people count money, we handed out the notes to groups of people and asked them to recognize them. We observed oral population identifies notes primarily based on a combination of color, relative size, and image of the numeral.
Other images like different types of motifs and pictures at the backside of different notes, appear to be less salient. The numeral string on the center-front of each note was only recognized visually, decoding it is unnecessary, though some respondents physically counted the number of zeroes, using this for identification, in combination with the color and relative size of the note.
Counting Cash: An easy adaption for oral people
Respondents were provided with ₹5,025 in cash and asked to count it. The 40 currency notes and coins included six different denominations:
thirteen ₹10s and five ₹5 coins
Nearly 3/4th of the sample, including most neo-numerates, and nearly 2/3rd of innumerates, answered correctly, taking an average time of 3 minutes and 18 seconds.
Observation 1: Seema from Siswan Village, Varanasi
Seema is a 35-year old housewife and a neo-numerate. We gave her a wad of notes comprising:
Seven ₹500 notes
Thirteen ₹100 notes
Thirteen ₹10 notes and five ₹5 coins.
She segregated the cash denomination-wise and added up the ₹500 notes to ₹3,000.
We observed her tendency to chunk the amount in ₹1000. When left with one ₹500 note, she added up five ₹100 notes to reach ₹1,000 and put ₹4,000 aside. She stacked the remaining ₹100 notes coming up to ₹800 and smaller denominations counting ₹200 separately.
However, by the end, her memory failed to remember that the first stack of ₹4,000, the second stack of ₹800, and the third stack of ₹200. She recounted the entire stack in the same way and added it up correctly; at the very end, she added the ₹25 in ₹5 coins.
When the team tested fake currency notes, oral subjects confused the ₹20 and ₹1,000, which were the same size.
Oral adaptation to the cash economy
Unschooled adults in the cash economy learn the skills to count and calculate cash either by themselves or from more experienced people. As participants counted ₹5,025 in notes and coins, several skills and strategies adopted for speedy and easy understanding were visible. Novice counters sum the 40 notes one at a time, in no order, while the experienced adopt a good chunking strategy. A good chunk contains easily remembered groups of notes (such as ‘4,000’ or ‘1,000’, or all ₹100 and all ₹500 notes).
By contrast, the widespread presence of multi-digit numeral strings/place value in financial reporting has not led to successful adaptation among oral people. Incentives may be lower, as compared to their perceived complexity of learning. This can be addressed through design.
Oral understanding of place value of digits
Respondents were shown a list of five multi-digit numeral strings and asked to identify ₹5,025 that they had just counted earlier.
- Only 34 out of 88 succeeded, taking an average time of 40 seconds.
- Most of the 28 incorrect answers involved place value errors (e.g. 525, 5250, etc.) and not numeral recognition errors.
- The oral understanding of zero is ‘nothing’. For example, the written digits ‘525’ appears quite plausible if the written meaning of zero is not clear.
- The only response that did not present the numbers in the correct order was ‘5,520’. Very few people made this error.
Putting Digits Together
- Zero was confusing for most of the participants unless it appeared only at the end of the string. When asked to express the number in rupees, people made mistakes like “four thousand, seven thousand and two hundred”.
- People with low levels of literacy understand single or double digits but face problems in deciphering four or five-digit numeral strings.
- Most innumerate participants could recognize single digits while neo-numerates could often recognize two, or even three-digit strings. This leads to the partial formation of numbers, for example by calling 4,702 “forty-seven and two”.
The impact of cash economy on mental numeracy
To understand the subject’s calculation abilities, respondents were asked to perform mental calculations for 7 questions. They were given a score in the range of 0–7 (1 point for each right answer). The average score for the entire sample was 4.2. Neo-numerate respondents (5.0) scored substantially better than innumerate ones (3.9).
People within the age group of 26–35 years could be early adopters of new mobile technology
- People in the age group of 18–25 years demonstrated weaker mental math skills than those in the age group of 26–35 years. Thus, elders performed relatively better than their younger counterparts since the experience with the cash economy improves mental math over time.
- In the age group 26–35, a fair percentage (9 out of 38 people) could answer the question correctly using a calculator. No one above 35 years of age was able to use a calculator to answer this question.
- People within the age group of 26–35 years have fair mental maths skills and a higher likelihood to adopt new technology since at this age people have a higher willingness as well as higher ability to learn. Thus, this group has the potential to be early adopters of new mobile technology.
Note: Participants were provided mobile phones for calculations.
Mobile Wallet Interface
The following are the representation of screens the user has to go through while sending money from the BHIM UPI mobile wallet.
Oral people find it hard to make sense of these icons on these screens. Focus Discussion Groups were conducted with participants with different literacy levels to gain insights into the contours of mobile wallet interfaces. Primarily focusing on functions like:
2. Receiving Money
3. Typing in the IME (Input Method Editor)
Tested out some images which oral people could recognize
- Oral people could recognize the piggy bank and currency notes separately but couldn't make sense of the whole image with arrows.
- Some people could not recognize the home icon.
- 40% of oral people couldn't find any difference in the faces.
- Call receive and end buttons were recognized successfully by 90%.
- Subjects could interpret the arrows and recognize the postman.
- Red meant to stop. Green meant to go. Yellow meant to move faster.
Observations from Focus Discussion Groups
Abstract icons are easier for literate people to understand than for oral people.
- In cases where icons looked exactly like what they represented, for example, buses, airplanes, electricity, most oral people were able to understand it.
- Oral people do not understand abstract icons or symbolic depictions, such as the front of an engine for a train, an arrow to show send money to a wallet, a plus sign, and a rupee symbol to add money to a wallet, to name a few. Literates are able to comprehend abstract icons as they can read the accompanying text to confirm what these icons stand for.
- We observed that oral people were associating the movement of money with hand positions corresponding to money exchange in real life. They specified how the hand on top and palms open positions denote giving and requesting money, respectively.
Oral people can be primed through colors. They associate a mobile wallet with a mobile phone, so any icon which is green in color is for proceed, much like accepting a call by pressing the green icon. Similarly, if red in color, it stands for cancellation like the red icon is for rejecting a call.
A fair percentage of people understand the vernacular language but not English. Thus, mobile wallets could facilitate the use of vernacular language to enable a wider section of mass to access wallets.
Many people in our sample were innumerate and illiterate, hence:
- Remembering an alphanumeric PIN is difficult for them than recalling pictures of things associated with real-life; the latter has higher recall accuracy for a longer period of time. The numeric PIN is also relatively easy to remember for them, however, when it comes to letters of the alphabet, this segment is unable to recognize and therefore relate to it.
- A number of people were not able to decipher money in terms of 4-digit numeral strings. They, however, were able to identify currency notes and perform any numeric calculations by using them.
Bill payments, merchant payments, and sending/receiving money are the most preferred transactions that the oral segment will use on mobile wallets.
- As early users, they would be cautious in transacting large amounts of money from a mobile wallet.
- The key advantage of using the above-mentioned use-cases is the convenience it provides in enhancing accessibility.
Cash-Based Input Method Editor designed for oral users
Entering the amount to send the money is not an easy task for the oral as they perceive the numbers visually and not quantitatively.
One of the oral subjects owns a shop and we observed she had no trouble with counting the money.
She also used the stacking methods mentioned above.
I asked another oral subject to make a mock purchase with different notes like 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 2000.
The subject stacks the notes to add up to a product’s price and makes a purchase. After these observations from the store and from Seema mentioned earlier, I came up with a cash-based calculator.
Drag And Drop
Users can choose the note, drag it and drop it in the box.
The cash-based IME provides a safety net for oral users. Mistakes can be identified easily as the cumulative number of cash units is visible in the upper panel (grey in the diagram). Besides, a curious user can control the cash inputs to observe their impact on the Indo-Arabic numeral string, learning place value in the process. Error correction follows the logic of cash counting, not the logic of numeric input. A user who has inputted five ₹100 notes and a ₹50 note, respectively, to make it ₹550. If the user touches the red backspace button, it will eliminate the last note entered, resulting in an entry of ₹500.
Deepening usability and safety: Multi-coding
The only way to ensure the integrity of transactions is through effective two-way information flow. Hence, multiple codes, as a measure of safety, can be used in mobile wallets to strengthen the belief of oral users that they are following the correct procedure while conducting the transaction. Some of these codes are listed below:
Iterations of the icon
The interface design went through multiple iterations before arriving at the final icons. Icons of Indian piggy bank (gulaks), wallets, hand gestures, arrows, and cash notes were developed and modified through each iteration.
Many participants considered gulaks to be for children, and it was difficult to develop an easily recognizable wallet. Arrows caused confusion when ‘request money’ and ‘add money had to be differentiated. Below is a set of images depicting the evolution of the “send money” icon with the help of rapid prototyping on the field.
For Send and Request Money, hand gestures such as shown in the diagram proved most readily understandable. Like many oral abstractions, they are readily understood by literates and likely to please various user categories. Oral focus group participants clearly understood them and added an important graphic dimension: money ‘sent’ goes down from giver to receiver, and money is received from above.
Transaction Process — Send Money
These wireframes went through multiple focus group iterations as the team tested various configurations and came up with final wireframes.
Bringing oral people out of number Anxiety
- Inputting numbers is a difficult task for the oral.
- Having similar input for different purposes is confusing for oral subjects.
- They assume the phone number or amount to be transferred will go into this field for the pin.
- It is hard to remember a 4 digit number. They tend to forget it or write it somewhere in a book and eventually forget it.
This is the problem with remembering their ATM PIN too.
Few solutions for the pin input
While asking them to choose few numbers we observed this dots system worked only till number 6. After number 6 they tend to get overwhelmed with the dots.
Here, They spend too long to count and this lines system worked only till number 5.
Although few subjects struggled with the numbers 8 & 9, This solution seemed to work successfully compared to other designs.
It was easy for the subjects to interpret the hand signs and didn’t have to struggle.
Subjects find it hard to remember a pin and hence they write down on a book and use it when needed. Keeping this in mind, images worked the best for icons, these mnemonic input methods would increase the chances of remembering the pin and also differentiate it from other input methods through the app.
- Unlike other methods, It would take some time for the subjects to associate a number to an image. We have chosen images that look similar to the numbers to make it easier for the subjects.
Methodology and process for testing the usability of our solution
Results of first usability test: Send money
Completed wireframes were tested for usability with 29 adults screened for numeracy. Results of a test of ‘send money’ are here:
Of the 15 participants screened for the numeracy test, 13 were found innumerate and 2 neo-numerate. Each received a 5-minute briefing on how to use the clickable prototype, completed from wireframes with Invision. While the test was reasonably successful, there was clear room for improvement:
•Finding the mobile phone number caused the most trouble, while selecting ₹550 in notes proved easiest.
•The ‘send money’ image developed during the project was well accepted, and 12 out of 15 people got it right in the first attempt.
•People had trouble finding the right fields to input mobile number, amount, etc. Thus, the input field can be shown in light green, while greying out the ones that are not yet salient.
•People faced problems in identifying the number of notes they had selected, reflected in IME, through naked eyes. Hence, a black border around all notes or a circle superimposed above the notes (since most of the respondents understand single-digit numbers) will help them cross-check whether they have selected the correct amount in IME.
•People found it easier to identify correct with green, hence, the ‘yes’ tick should be green against a white background (not the reverse).
•The black-colored home icon distracted people who felt it was being highlighted and hence, pressed it in the middle of the transaction. Thus the icon against which users have to enter the details should only be highlighted at a point in time.
Results of second usability test: Send money
The result of the second test was quite similar to the first usability test.
•The mock demo video was an effective tool to teach people about transactions as was a personal briefing.
•The average of the results score was better than the previous tests.
- However, in this usability test, we found that participants found it hard to select the currencies in the cash-based IME.
The research on Digital Wallet Adoption for Oral Segment helped students from Alliance University and Centennial College with My Oral Village gain a deeper perspective on the behavior of the oral market segments in India.
- We conducted rapid prototyping of wireframes to come up with the design ideas of MoWO — Mobile Wallet for Oral. However, since testing is an evolving process, My Oral Village will continue to conduct similar studies to enhance the look and feel of MoWO and include an increased number of transactions.
- The payment landscape in India has been witnessing a paradigm change, further accentuated by new innovations. New mobile applications have been rapidly developing and MoWO can be modified depending on the service offerings of FSPs.
- My Oral Village will also conduct similar studies for oral segments across various geographies.
This was the first time in 2018 that I have taken part in a project like this, I was excited and had a lot of assumptions before starting the project. But as we started the interviews my whole perception of users have changed. Here are a few key learnings:
- I realized assumptions keep us in a box, Taking feedback from the users and listening to them with open-mindedness and patience helped me understand the users better.
- Unintentionally I made the subjects feel uncomfortable asking too many questions at the starting but I learned through it and eventually I maintained a balance with warm-up questions.
- Asking questions out of the subject helped me with more behavioral insights, for example: After asking these questions about her daily life an oral subject revealed that she owned a shop and that helped me organize a mock purchase, and observations from this led me to come with the cash calculator.
- Observing users perform the tasks given the best validation for our ideas.
- Realized being emotionally attached to ideas while ideating is not a good thing. Users are better to judge by it.
- Had to make use of resources at the moment to accomplish tasks on time.