Zoona provides essential financial services that help communities thrive. They are using technology and entrepreneurship to bring transformative change in Africa. Zoona Plus offered customers an extended set of services that included:


Cape Town




Senior UX

Team size


The problem

Zoona's Sunga and Boost pilot studies showed that customers wanted (and in some cases needed) access to savings and loans services that were secure and affordable. As a result, Zoona wanted to include these services as part of their OTC (over-the-counter) and Wallet offerings.

Key challenges

  • I had to design for a wide range of mobile phones with a diverse set of capabilities. The list included high-end Android phones and the most basic GSM phones.
  • I had to design for a wide range of users with varying digital abilities.
  • The customer experience spanned across multiple digital and human touch points.
  • I had to coordinate remote design activities with the Zambian office.
  • There were new regulatory and legal requirements that had to be satisfied.

Project goal

Zoona Plus aimed to consolidate the existing Sunga, Wallet, and Boost products lines into a single smooth, consistent consumer and agent experience.

The Android and USSD apps formed an integral part of that consumer experience.

Success criteria

  • Were the apps ready for the regional pilot study?
  • Did the apps satisfy the regulatory requirements?
  • Did the team achieve their  acquisition and revenue targets?
  • Were customers satisfied with the new products?

My role

I was the Senior UX Designer and my responsibilities included:
  • Designing customer journeys.
  • Creating interactive prototypes.
  • Designing the UI and assets.
  • Managing user testing in Zambia.
  • Reporting on app performance.

Design process

The design team followed a Human-centred Design process that utilized a variety of methods and tools from Design Thinking, including:
  1. Interviews (Individual, Group and Expert), Card sorting, Immersion, and Secondary research.
  2. Learning downloads, KJ sorting, Point Of View, Personas, and Journey mapping (existing).
  3. Whiteboarding, Mind maps, How Might We sessions, Crazy 8s, and Journey mapping (future).
  4. Rapid prototyping and Interactive prototyping.
  5. Concept testing, Usability testing, and Data analytics.
See other methods I've used

1. Developing empathy

The Empathize phase focused on developing an understanding of the target users needs, their challenges, pain points, and their environment. Our research strategy used a combination of field immersion, interviews, group workshops, and desk research.

Methods and tools

Card sorting
Immersion was an essential part of the process and helped develop my understanding of the local users and their environment. My goal was to understand the problem from their perspective.
I used paper prototypes to support individual and group interviews. These helped unlock the users' perspectives and sentiments towards a topic or concept.
The team spent the evenings unpacking all the day's observation and interview data. We used KJ sorting as part of the Synthesis step to organize the data and identify patterns in the data.

2. Define the problem

The second phase of the process focused on defining the problem that Zoona wanted to address. We used the research from the first phase to write problem statements from a Zoona customer's point of view using the personas, needs, and insights. For example:

Methods and tools

Point Of View
Personas (roleplay)
Journey mapping
I used personas as a tangible way of capturing the information generated during the Define phase. They served as the subjects for a variety of design activities, including storyboarding, journey mapping, walkthroughs, and role-playing. My goal was to stay in a user-centric mindset at all times and to ensure that the team remained empathetic towards our customers as we progressed.

3. Generate ideas

The third phase of the process focused on generating solution ideas to solve the problems we identified. The teams used a variety of ideation techniques, including whiteboarding, mind mapping, crazy 8s, and journey mapping.

Methods and tools

Journey maps
Mind mapping
Crazy 8s
Journey mapping and story boarding
The design team spent a significant amount of time creating and refining customer journeys and storyboards. It was an essential part of grappling with the problem space and providing context for our ideation sessions. For example, the pain points (red sticky notes) catalysed many ideas and discussions.

4. Build a prototype

The fourth phase of the process focused on creating prototypes that we would be testing. The team used a variety of prototyping techniques, including paper, interactive prototypes, and USSD simulators.

Methods and tools

Paper prototypes
Paper prototypes
I used paper prototypes to conduct rapid, task-based usability tests. It was particularly useful for testing menus and the terminology used. For example, 'Pay bills' versus 'Pay utilities' and 'View transaction history' versus 'View your statements'.
Flow and state diagrams
I sketched UI mockups to test ideas and then utilized them in the whiteboarding sessions. It was particularly useful when reviewing and testing UI concepts with the team as I could easily rearrange the paper screens and change them if needed.
The Android app
The Zoona Plus app enabled customers to access Zoona's full suite of services via their smartphone, including small loans, savings, money transfers, prepaid talk time purchases, and bill payments.
The Home screen
The Home screen was the primary information screen and the launchpad into the app's transactional flows. It contained three key sections:
  • Personal information (important for a multi-user / shared phone environment)
  • Main balance (plus a savings and loan peek)
  • Action buttons (to launch transactions)
Why did I choose a grid?
I used an action button grid on the home screen for two main reasons:
  • Efficiency in use: The most frequently used actions should be easily accessible on the first screen. The grid also allowed us to make the touch targets quite big, which was important for accessibility reasons.
  • Discoverability: An open grid exposed the app's main functions to new users instead of hiding it behind an action sheet or menu. My goal was to shape a user's conceptual model of the product and to encourage exploration and action.
N26, a popular digital bank, has recently followed a similar approach by including action buttons on the home screen: Add moneySend moneySchedule, and Statistics.

It was a positive move as, previously, the actions felt quite hidden on the fourth tab and required unnecessary effort by the user, especially when considering that people frequently used the action buttons.
Zoona money transfer
Money transfer is the primary service that customers associate with the Zoona brand. It comprises two transactions: send money and receive money.
Example: An existing user sends money to Samuel Mwanza
  • Step 1: The app asks the user to enter a mobile number by either typing it, searching their contact list or by choosing a recently used number.
  • Step 2: The app asks the user to enter the amount of money they wish to send. A balance peek provided feedback regarding the maximum amount available, and a price check feature highlighted the new send options and costs associated.
  • Step 3: The app presents the user with the available send options and associated costs. The screen design and explanatory text stemmed from a pain point and opportunity that I identified in the journey mapping sessions.
Art, colour, and typography
Zoona's Plus brand identity transitioned the company to a more sophisticated and mature palette. Nunito was chosen as the primary font as it imbued stability, playfulness and accessibility. Muli provided a minimalist secondary font.
Brand identity: Quintin Weyer
Icons: Andrew Maunder
The USSD service
The USSD service enabled customers with basic phones (or smartphones without data) to access all of Zoona's financial services. A typical session started with the user dialling Zoona's short code *321*1#, entering their password, and then navigating a numerical menu.
The main menu
The main menu was the primary navigation mechanism and launchpad into the app's various transactional flows.
What design challenges did I face?
  • Text and character limitations: USSD is a text service that only allows 182 characters per message, so I had to be mindful of this constraint when designing the menu, list, information, input, and confirmation screens.
  • Session time limits: USSD sessions expire after a set time defined by the mobile network operator (~60sec to 90sec). It meant that the registration, authentication, and transactional flows had to be as short as possible.
  • Reporting limitations: The existing USSD reports only showed the number of successful transactions but did not visualize the entire transaction funnel or show drop off points. I worked closely with the data team to enhance the QlikView USSD reports to include the missing information.

5. Test the solution

I tested my designs by combining data points from several quantitative and qualitative sources. These included:
Usability testing
I was responsible for training the Zambian field team, preparing test scripts, and analysing the video data. My usability testing protocol utilized a moderated, task-based approach with pre and post-test interview questions. The data was sent back in the form of videos and audio showing the user's session.
Data workshops
I presented a UX report about the USSD and Android apps at the bi-weekly data workshop. The purpose was to analyse the quantitative and qualitative UX data from the past two weeks and to then report on issues relating to customer acquisition, retention, engagement, funnel conversions, and drop-off points.

Project outcome

The project was successful with both the Android and USSD apps satisfying local regulatory requirements and being ready for the localized pilot and national product launches during the second quarter of 2018. The first twelve months saw a lot of interest in the new products with five hundred thousand people registering for Zoona Plus in Zambia.

The project exposed me to the broader field of service design and provided me with valuable experience designing a multi-channel customer experience spanning digital and human touch-points. From a process perspective, it reiterated the value of collaborative journey mapping across teams when grappling with business, technical, and regulatory complexities.