UX research in the field: Conducting usability testing on the DHIS2 Android app in Zambia

The DHIS2 Design team (part of the core DHIS2 software team led by the HISP Centre at the University of Oslo) is expanding usability testing efforts, as such tests help us assess how well a design, prototype, or feature works for users. In a test, participants complete tasks while we observe, listen, and take notes. The aim is to find any issues, gather data, and gain insights to test whether the functionality meets user needs.

The HISP Centre and Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL) have an ongoing collaboration to improve the efficiency and usability of the user interface of the DHIS2 Android Capture app in a two-fold way, speeding up data entry and reducing user training time. Employing a prototype and test approach, the team iteratively improves the app, testing prototypes remotely and in the field with users who are both familiar and not familiar with DHIS2.

Through collaboration with HISP South Africa, the Zambian National Public Health Institute and LSS Zambia, the DHIS2 Design team conducted an in-person usability test visit with the Zambian eIDSR implementation in November 2023. The team spoke to 9 participants (surveillance officers, information managers, environmental health technologists, and nurses) in Lusaka and Kabwe in Zambia.

Our hybrid approach of conducting interviews with usability tests ensures that we gain clarity around users’ workflows and data flows, and how/when/where it is captured into a system, in this case how DHIS2 is utilized during disease outbreaks. This helps ensure that our designs align with realistic workflows and real-world user needs.

The team conducted specific tasks with each of the users to test some of our design explorations for the Android App. This was done using high-fidelity prototypes with designs informed by previous usability tests.

Specifically in this test, the team tested for the following:

  • Search and Enrolment: We tested for two possible flows: “Search, then enroll” and “Enroll, then search”.
  • Tracked entity dashboard layout: We tested to see the comprehension of 2 designs of the TE dashboard separately.
  • Tablet usage: Earlier tests have taken place with mobile devices, so this was the first time testing with tablet layout for designs and gathering information around tablet use.

One of the tracked entity dashboard designs and how well each of the sections tested

After conducting usability testing, the team collates all the interviews into an internal report specifying what worked well, what needs improvement and what are the consequences of what we have learned. The team categorizes the designs for the next steps, whether they can be retained as is or with minor changes, or whether they need a redesign of the flow or further testing. The insights contribute to design iterations that are based on user needs and feed into the software development process, contributing to making a DHIS2 a user-centered platform.