(Editor’s note: Stella Zubeck was a User Experience Research intern at Mozilla during the summer of 2013. The following blog post is her personal recollection of her travels.)
I aided with logistics for the UX Research team’s expedition to Bogotá, Colombia in August, 2013. Simply put, it’s no small task to build a three-week-long field study. In addition to designing the study, the UXR team had to order, receive, and hand-carry many Firefox OS cell phones into a another country (we needed to make sure that the phones were available on our tight timeframe). The team ran like a well-oiled, enthusiastic user research machine, and, in concert with great work from a team at Sylver Consulting, we launched a unique three-week study.
Watching our participants interact with Firefox OS was both fruitful and exciting. I spent eight days in Bogotá with the team, becoming familiar with how and where Colombian mobile phone users actually purchase and set up mobile phones. Most importantly, I learned exactly how our participants integrated a Firefox OS smartphone in their daily lives.
Here are some quick notes on the city and its people as I observed them during a week in the field. This was my first visit to Colombia and South America.
Bogotá is a teeming sprawl of a rapidly developing and evolving city, encircled by the steep ridges of dark green, mist-shrouded mountains. These mountains provide a striking backdrop to Bogotá’s seemingly endless miles of houses, mini-markets, street art, malls, and office buildings. The streets are constantly abuzz with people, packed in to private and public buses, walking and riding bikes, hawking goods in traffic, commuting and working to carve out their slice of Colombia’s promising future. The neighborhoods vary from graffiti-covered districts to antique colonial Spanish enclaves, and from quieter suburbs to bustling, urban city blocks lined with stores and elegant restaurants and bars.
Infrastructures and Systems
Things in Bogotá, like systems, processes and traffic, don’t move incredibly fast compared to what I am used to in the United States. Organizational efficiency wasn’t emphasized in customer experiences I had, such as a lunch our research team had at a fast food restaurant that took over an hour from order time to receipt of our food. The experience of buying and setting up SIM cards was lengthy and challenging for us.
The Arts Matter
Murals and great street art are everywhere in Bogotá, and punctuate the city streets with splashes of inspiring creativity and color. The street art I saw was often social commentary or political in nature. People in the city actively enjoy music, and access to it mattered to our research participants, some of whom were involved in the music industry. Many of the research participants discussed using the radio app, and some had commentary about the comfort and quality of their phones’ ear buds and speakers.
Celebration is important – and lively. During El Ciclovía, when the city closes down city streets to allow people walk and ride their bikes, people were out by the hundreds enjoying the city and spending time with each other, and gathered in city parks with friends by night. Nightlife in the city is busy and active.
Generally speaking, the people we interacted with in Bogotá were genuinely warm, welcoming, and open despite my own language limitations. Several of us had the opportunity to enjoy a big food festival in a park. It was a delicious event, filled with families, people of all ages, and friendly dogs. The festive atmosphere was undeterred by bouts of rain during which everyone huddled together under umbrellas. At all hours, people were out and about and dancing to music between the tables at restaurants and at clubs.
While the middle class is growing rapidly, I saw a variety of social classes in my short stay. I saw street vendors of all kinds, people aggressively selling goods between the cars at busy intersections, brand new malls, luxury shopping districts and bustling black market areas, and many of our research participants told us they work multiple jobs to make a living.
Physical Security and Cell Phones
Cell phone theft is a serious concern and was mentioned by many of our research participants.
Bogotá is a lively, unpredictable and exciting city, and it was a pleasure to see it in person.