Crafting web content for micro-loan borrowers in Indonesia
Date / Location
Nov. 2014 - Jan. 2015
East & Central Java, Indonesia
Zidisha is a nonprofit website that gives people access to interest-free microloans in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Senegal and Zambia. Borrowers use Zidisha's website to learn about the service, solicit funds, interact with donors and manage their loan repayments.
The number of borrowers in Indonesia was growing, and Zidisha wanted to improve their experience by updating and expanding its translated content. What was the best way for Zidisha to describe itself in Indonesian?
I helped answer this question by studying how similar financial products were marketed in Indonesia, visiting borrowers to understand their motivations and context, and capturing the language that borrowers used when they talked about Zidisha in everyday life.
The insights I gathered allowed me to:
- Standardize the terminology Zidisha used to describe its service in Indonesian;
- Expand the Indonesian version of Zidisha's FAQ page and make its content reflect the natural language of borrowers;
- Update the labeling and content that Indonesian borrowers see in their account management pages.
My goal was to craft language that would feel conversational to Zidisha's users. I wanted them to feel confident about managing their account, and to be prepared to explain Zidisha to their friends.
Learning basic financial terms from Indonesian banks
I began by looking at similar banking products and how they were described by Indonesian banks. This provided a starting point for a glossary of financial terms.
Gauging a term's frequency and discovering common adjacent words
Next, I used Google as a linguistic corpus to help me understand how small loans were being talked about online. Which terms were the most common? What words did people combine with these terms? Which terms were limited to banking websites, and which ones were more common in real exchanges on blogs or social media?
Understanding how borrowers talk about their loans in everyday life
After developing a glossary of financial terms and phrases from the earlier research, I interacted directly with Zidisha's borrowers through in-person interviews, phone calls, SMS, and email. After hearing them describe their experience, I revised my glossary to reflect their speech patterns and vocabulary.
I also spent time with borrowers in their own homes and places of work, which gave me an understanding of their motivations for using Zidisha, the impact that microloans had on their lives, and the other financing options that they considered.
Interviewing users: Understanding alternative financing options and natural language
To further refine its web content, Zidisha would need to answer the following questions:
- What information is not on the FAQ page, but is needed or expected by users?
- Which parts of the FAQ page are still unclear or confusing for Indonesian borrowers?
- How easily can Zidisha's Indonesian borrowers understand and use the account management controls? Which labels are ambiguous or misleading?
To answer these questions, Zidisha could:
- Evaluate the FAQ page by presenting it to 5-10 target users, asking them explain their understanding of each section, making note of the passages that caused the most confusion and hesitation, and recording the unanswered questions that users had after reading the FAQ.
- Evaluate the account management content by doing moderated usability tests with 5-7 target users.
Additionally, Zidisha would want to consider whether a website is the best way to deliver its FAQ information. Perhaps a downloadable PDF would be more convenient for borrowers with limited internet access, for example.
To speak the user's language, listen to how they talk to each other.
By meeting with Zidisha's borrowers and prospective users in person, I was able to capture more authentic speech patterns. The most powerful way to do this, though, was to listen while people described Zidisha to their friends and acquaintances. In these moments, they would simplify and summarize concepts, saying "in other words, ..." or "that means, ..." This was invaluable in helping me write more understandable content.