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In Senegal, the Yux agency adapts digital design to local realities

Icons of supporters of the Senegal football team, created by Yux Design teams. Cocoji.co

Innovation laboratories and start-ups flourish in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. In this ecosystem, since 2017, Yux Design has been a pioneer. His speciality ? L'UX, for “User experience” (user experience): a discipline that is just emerging in the region and whose objective is to improve the user's feeling in their interactions with digital services.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the site and application models are very often modeled on those of the countries of the North. However, “Digital is like any other product”, insists Frenchman Yann Le Beux, one of the co-founders of Yux Design: “For it to be adopted by the target, it must take into account local issues and needs, reflect culture and identities. “

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Three years ago, the Congolese Daniel Locko (Brazzaville) and the French-American Camille Kramer, two designers, as well as the French Yann Le Beux, materials engineer trained in innovation management, gathered around a table. The three acolytes, who met in Dakar where they all worked in the digital world and in start-ups, start by creating workshops to train graphic designers, developers and volunteer entrepreneurs in design methodologies and tools. The market is almost virgin and the community quickly stands out. Soon, giants like Orange and Total are eyeing its activities.

Multinationals with start-ups

Yux Design is created. The agency is structured and supports multinationals (finance, telecoms, etc.) and organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) or the French Development Agency (AFD) in the design of their interfaces. sites or applications. At the same time, it is breaking its prices to offer its services to young shoots who are trying to find a place in the market.

But how do you develop functional digital products when you don't know the profiles of the target populations, their needs and expectations? In the western world, user data is easily accessible. The African context is quite different. So Yux Design creates Looka, a data collection and visualization application adapted to African cities. The team trains field investigators and the final studies, published online, are available free of charge. “It’s a lot of time and money, ensures Camille Kramer, but we want to show the link between sociology, anthropology and digital. ”

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Victim of its success, Yux Design must hire, but the talent is lacking in the field. And for good reason: no training in UX and in design was then available in Dakar. Never mind, the founders post job vacancies on social media. The most interested and motivated are offered the opportunity to learn everything in-house.

Aïssatou Dione, for example, was a midwife. One day, she saw this ad in an offbeat tone on Facebook. Since then, the young woman is “UX researcher” within the young company. “We want people who are genuinely interested in and believe in digital, insists Camille Kramer. They must also be listening, because it is an essential prerequisite in the creative world. “

A new office in Abidjan

Daily learning becomes the common thread of Yux Design. In January 2019, the start-up even launched its own “Academy”. Intensive vocational training of two to seven months is offered to two cohorts of about ten students. For professionals who want to acquire new skills, the cost of evening courses is high (485,000 CFA francs, or 740 euros, for nine hours of lessons per week for two months) and it is often the company that pays.

But Yux Design has provided a more accessible solution for young people who dream of entering the job market: they are asked to participate modestly to register, then it will be a question of paying 15% of the first six months of salary – that is to say if theacademy believe in what it teaches. The best student will stay in the offices of Yux Design, which currently employs 30 people full time between Dakar and its new office in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

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Meanwhile, the fine team of “ lab “ develops internal projects. “When you work for a client, you realize that you lack certain tools adapted to the context, as icons that simply describe the realities of Senegal ”, says Yann Le Beux. Icons, precisely, have become the new hobby of two developers and a designer from Yux Design, who put their creations online on the cocoji.co platform.

While Yux Design's tentacles keep growing, some potential clients do not like the multiplicity of the agency's activities. But for the founders, it doesn't matter, because everything is complementary. “We have already been told to focus on certain activities, because developing all these things could reduce our credibility as an agency, reports Yann Le Beux. But for us, it’s inseparable. We do not intend to limit ourselves. “

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