Some challenges & considerations
- Deep knowledge & specialism, but not succinct communicators or marketeers - This field is full of passionate and highly skilled specialists, however they are often caught in the detail, generating deep & wordy reports, which are not easily digestible online and generally do not easily translate into marketing friendly content, without training, support and editorial services.
- Operating in very political environments - Due to the nature of these types of projects, a combination of internal & external political issues can dramatically affect projects, diluting messages and effectiveness. A map and its borders can be hugely contentious, or a statistic/fact can create perceived blame of failure, and decision making can become protracted negotiations. Here a sense of humour, a well thought out process and experience of the pitfalls is essential in ensuring a project stays on target.
- A wide range of potential different stakeholders - Whilst some project are very focused with a single target audience, other projects must cater to a wide range of differing stakeholder groups, risking falling into the trap of trying to speak to everyone in the same way, at the same time… and therefore not actually managing to engage or connect with anyone. Here different IA, UX and messaging approaches need to be explored to ensure the various different stakeholder groups have relevant and engaging journeys through the website.
- Decision by committee - Whether in large organisations, or on multi-party projects, there is always the risk of large committees diluting the end result due to the well known trap of 'design by committee’. Rather that try to avoid input from the group/committee, a successful project needs to embrace this celebrating the potential benefits of the 'hive mind’, whilst at the same time knowing how to minimise the risks associated with this. A well thought out process will gather input early and tighten up the decision group at key points, ensuring the project does not become diluted.
- Differing design requirements - Design is a very personal and individuals obviously have very different tastes. This is magnified when we consider the different cultural design tangents when designing for African institutions. What represents Africa from someone in northern African will be very different to someone in central Africa… What feels congruent for someone for Ethiopia may be very different from someone in Cape Town or Lagos. Whilst most will want something modern & professional, this can mean very different things to different people, so a mature positioning and design process is essential to ensure we have developed a commonality of visual position allowing us to design a website which is representative.
- Mobile usage and accessibility - The mobile phone is for many in Africa the only access to the internet that they have… a connected laptop or desktop may not be accessible. With this in mind, it is essential to ensure websites are designed to be fully mobile responsive and optimised for both the user journey as well as quick a speedy browsing experience. Separately to this, it is really important to ensure the website is fully accessibility, so disabled visitors are able to access content and services, by not only adhering to the accessibility guidelines but by ensuring real world accessibility is achieved.
- Governance & process - One of the most challenging aspects of developing projects for the likes of the African Development Bank, the WHO or other large institutions is the requirements of strong governance. We have often seen strong or opinionated senior managers drive changes to suite their specific needs, overriding colleges who are simply expected to do what is requested, or a lack of ownership resulting in ongoing operational issues. Here a strong governance model is required establishing rules, ownership and process to ensure the website or intranet retains its integrity.
- Advocacy vs campaigns - Key to the success of a website are definable and measurable calls to action or outcomes (that deliver), which is relatively straightforward on campaign orientated projects with district CTA's such as ‘Donate Now', however other projects are more advocacy orientated and can fall into a trap of not actually having a CTA or actionable output. Here it is important to take time to explore how the website can actually help archive the agenda and how it can enhance the advocacy role of the organisation.
- Skill sets and abilities - One of the most challenging aspects which is not unique to Africa focused projects, are influencers, owners and decision makers who are not skilled marketeers, communicators and digital people. How to tell someone they do not fully understand the issue without causing offence? How to work with someone who does not deliver what they have promised? We have all worked in situations where this can impact the project, and here experience of really using peoples skills, whilst spotting & planning around these potential weak links in the chain are essential to ensure the project delivers and does not fall into blame or acrimony.
Q - Do you only do work in Africa?
A - Certainly not - we work with many organisations and NGOs internationally across many countries and regions: LATIM, Europe etc. We do however have an impressive but transferable experience base in African Social & economic development focused projects. This was not necessarily intentional and it is surprising considering where we are based.
Q - Are only focused on non commercial projects?
A - Whilst we love and do have a strong specialism in the social & economic development sector, as an agency we work in both the commercial and the not-for-profit arena across a range of sectors; legal, financial services, insurance, recruitment & executive search, consultancy, membership organisations, etc ensuring we do not become complacent and that we cross pollinate experience, knowledge and capability.