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WeFarm #2: Crafting the experience

20 December, 2013 - Source: Else

Part two in a series where we expose the workings behind our peer-to-peer knowledge sharing project for Cafédirect Producers Foundation. Expect insights from research and user-testing, as well as sharing of early concept development through to the final solution.

  • Crafting the WeFarm experience
    Crafting the WeFarm experience

How can under-connected rural farming communities in the developing world gain access to vital farming information, in order to improve their livelihood?

In our first installment of the WeFarm blog series, we examined the context of the WeFarm challenge and how SMS could be the key to enabling better access to information for often-marginalised communities. In this update, we'll look at how we began defining the experience framework for WeFarm. 

SomeOne/Else is working with Cafédirect Producers foundation to develop a platform for the sharing of agricultural expertise, allowing smallholder coffee, tea and cocoa farmers to ask each other questions via SMS.


Over the past few weeks we have been in the Discovery Phase of the project. We've been looking at the overall context of the challenge, understanding who the stakeholders in the service are, as well as building up a picture of what we think success looks like. We've carried out our own desk-based research but also tapped into Cafédirect Producers Foundation’s (CPFs) expertise and first hand experience, as well as their learnings from the initial WeFarm pilot.

Naturally user-centred design starts with a firm understanding of the audience and the context in which the audience will operate. We always seek to understand people's motivations for engaging with the service and the goals it can help them achieve, doing so means design success at an emotional level and to create value beyond utility. If we understand this, then it follows that we can define tasks they may undertake and finally any required features that they may need to complete those tasks – it follows that there will be no features in the service unless they contribute to needs at a higher level.

We then use this information to create a set of models, experience schemas, flows, features and tools aimed at resolving the end user needs – but of course balanced with any business objectives. These artefacts help us to start building and shaping the WeFarm experience. All this is done collaboratively over a series of workshops attended by CPF and, in this case, partner technical agencies Manifesto and Conker (who are responsible for building the technology behind WeFarm).

Building up a rich picture of who we are designing for

Empathy is the bedrock of good design, so for us, personas are an important tool in understanding who we're designing for (personas are often confused with marketing segments but they represent needs, goals and motivations rather than 'opportunities'). It's the creation of our personas that helps us gain empathy and valuable insight into their possible behaviors, needs and motivations. The work helps us understand what they might expect the service to do, what features it may have to facilitate their needs as well as what channels they will want to use.

We identified three principle user types in WeFarm; farmers, translators and extension workers. At least for the initial launch, a farmer is someone who grows tea, coffee or cocoa in one of our launch countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Haiti and Peru), but eventually this could be any farmer in the world. Translators are people who volunteer their time to translate questions and answers sent by farmers so that the reach of a solution to a problem is not limited by language. Extension workers are people who are employed by a regional farming co-operative to give support to farmers (co-operatives are often government run, however this is not always the case). 

Below are three persona narratives we developed to provide context and guidance to the next stages of the project (of course there is more to a persona and they are synthesised by sifting through relevant research and mapping against behavioural axes - this technique is involved and warrants another post at a later date).

Josef Mariuki

Josef Mariuki is a farmer. He's looking to maximise the income he can get for his harvest by creating the best growing conditions for his crops. He's also interested in ways to diversify, so his family are not just relying on one primary crop. He wants to improve his farm’s output in order to better support himself and his family, and ultimately improve their quality of life. He listens to the radio to stay up to date with news and weather. He meets face-to-face with other farmers daily and occasionally meets with extension workers for advice and training. He does not own a device which connects to the internet, and also the nearest internet cafe is a days travel away. However, he does have a basic mobile phone that he uses for calling and messaging.

His primary motivation to use WeFarm is to be able to ask questions and get solutions to his problems, but also use his expertise to help other people.

Lia Cabello

Lia Cabello is a translator. She's motivated by improving her foreign language skills. Practice makes perfect! She wants learning new language skills to be a fun and perhaps even a social experience. She also cares about development issues, especially in her own country and wants to do her bit to make a positive difference. Maybe there’s a reward for doing so, such as gaining kudos, academic points, mobile phone credit or even cash. She owns a smartphone and a laptop.

Her primary motivation to use WeFarm is to get better at speaking a language and see the impact an reach of her translations.

Gatete Adogo

Gatete Adogo is an extension worker. He wants to support his network of farmers to be able to do better. To do this he needs to understand and advise on all the issues around farming, conditions, budgeting, ways to diversify etc. He wants to improve conditions for his farming cooperative by learning about new products, methods etc that can be passed on. He wants to share his expertise and knowledge with other extension workers in return for gained knowledge - locally and globally. He has a desktop computer, which he uses to help him carry out his extension worker duties.

His primary motivation to use WeFarm is to access relevant information quickly and help his community of farmers.


Beyond these primary personas, it also emerged from the workshops that there would be important cultural differences between farmers in different countries - especially when it comes to gender differences. For example a female farmer in Kenya may not be as empowered to ask questions as a female farmer in Peru, so WeFarm then becomes valuable tool for giving them a voice. Also a female farmer in Kenya's main focus is more likely to be growing food to feed their family, rather than growing a cash crop such as coffee. This effectively means they are experts on farm diversification.

Engagement models

For each persona, we also create an Engagement Model to accompany it. This model looks at the most important factors across each step of the customer lifecycle and is split up into three steps; Attract, Engage and Evolve.

Attract deals with awareness channels and how a target user might have their attention drawn to the service.

Engage looks at initial interactions, the things that they might do as awareness moves to interest.

Evolve seeks to understand how you turn initial interactions into sustained customer engagement, how over time you deepen someone's relationship and convert them from first time user to Nth time user and a willing service advocate.

So for a farmer, they might hear about WeFarm on the radio, or from one of their piers, or from promotional literature (attract). To be engaged, they register via SMS and start receiving tips and answering questions (engage). Their relationship with WeFarm eventually grows through from repeat usage, having received tips from the service which they found useful, seeing the benefits in their farming productivity, as well as being engaged in a sense of community within WeFarm (evolve).

Blueprint for the Experience

The Experience Blueprint is our first prototype of the service, and it's where the service really starts taking shape. The blueprint maps out every step of each user's journey through the system, all of their interactions with WeFarm, which channels those interactions happen through as well as what goes on in the background to make it all work. Creating this helps us to see where the experiential challenges potentially lie within the service - allowing us to drill into the minute details, as well as isolate the technologies that will support the experience. Further still it can reveal opportunities to create 'brand ownable moments'.

Typically, we create the first blueprint using brown paper and Post-It notes, because largely we want to end up with a low fidelity ‘prototype’ - one which is easy to evolve collaboratively. We then create a digital version similar to the one pictured below, except much, much bigger. This document lives throughout the project, is bigger than A0 and is always a very useful deliverable for our clients.

A roadmap of features

Once we've blueprinted the entire experience, we are left with a long list of features that will need to be understood, phased, designed and delivered. This is all organised into a Feature Roadmap before we then design the Sprints and delivery schedule.

The Roadmap is like a parking lot for all things that we want to make, some are understood, some aren't. For example a feature could be the ability to register via SMS, the ability to target a question at someone with the expertise to answer it or the ability to see the journey of a question against a map, and so on.

There’s an arc which divides the map into two halves. Any feature considered ‘nice to have’ is placed outside the arc, and everything that lands inside the arc is what makes up the minimum viable product (MVP) that will be delivered and launched in the first phase of the project. We identified five categories that these features fall into. Features relating to registration and profiles, features relating to translating questions or answers, features relating to targeting questions and notifications, features relating to community, and features relating to value & reward.

Once this roadmap is finalised and we have a shared understanding of what we are going to create, we can then create a backlog. A backlog is essentially our ‘to do’ list, comprising of a list of features told as stories from the user perspective. In the coming weeks we'll be tackling the design and build of these features as well as starting to test what we make with real users.

Coming soon...

This blog is part two in a series where we are lifting the lid on the way we do things. Keep an eye out for the next installment, as we’ll be unveiling much more detail about the project as it progresses and showing previews of designs and prototypes as they develop.

Cafédirect Producers Foundation (CPF) is a UK registered charity owned and led by smallholder farmers for smallholder farmers. They are currently engaged with 280,000 smallholder tea, coffee and cocoa producers across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Find out more about what they do by visiting their website.

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