Community-led building: Culture is key
The local cultural norms of the people in the city and locality you are building for greatly affect the features you create
Uber, Google Maps, and other products that have multi-sided communities as their userbase have a rating system. This allows the platform to curate quality interactions between the different communities. For Uber, it helps ensure top-tier drivers serve top-tier riders; for Google Maps, it helps ensure top-tier restaurants and other POIs (places of interest) cater to top-tier customers.
Basically, you see a high rating and know this means quality service is ensured. This is supposed to work in such a way that every 5-star rating denotes quality. But in Nigeria, this is not always the case; we have behaviours that negate this and thus its usefulness. I don’t have a name for these "behaviours" but I’ll share stories.
Only evil people rate less than 5-star
We had just returned to our office in Surulere, Lagos, and as we alighted from the Uber, I noticed my boss rating the driver a 5-star rating. I wondered
"But the driver was rude and kept driving anyhow, that shouldn’t be a 5 star."
So I asked why he had given the driver the highest rating even though the experience was bad, and he said
"I can't give him a low rating na; that's where he eats; I'm not a bad person."
As a Nigerian, upon hearing this, I agreed. In Nigeria, we are always our brothers' keepers, even when they never asked us. We will pray for them, give them advice, and help them be better even when they do not want to. So I could relate to and understand the decision to give the driver a 5-star rating; we were not evil or bad people.
Only God deserves a 5-star
I was out with a friend on an urban exploration. We were looking for new places to explore, and we had just come out of a restaurant. The food was good, and we were quite happy we found it. We both loaded up Google Maps to add our reviews of the place. As I added my 5 stars because I truly enjoyed the meal, my friend added 3 stars. I was shocked. So I asked why, and he said
"I give three stars to a good place where they did what they said they'd do and the experience was satisfactory. 4-stars are for places that go above and beyond, then 5-star is for God; only God is perfect."
As a Nigerian, I immediately understood this! That is so true! Only God is perfect; why was I giving away so many 5 stars?! What my friend said made so much sense.
I cannot be bothered
I was talking with a friend about rating Uber drivers, and she said she no longer cared about it. These days, she hardly ever rates drivers. She’d only rate if the experience was bad or the driver did something particularly nice that stood out. Another friend beside us concurred, saying they did the same thing, and instantly, as a true Nigerian, I remembered times when I couldn’t be bothered, and so I did not rate the driver.
A driver also recently said the same thing to me. He just mindlessly rates 5-star these days, regardless of what happens. If it wasn’t necessary for drivers to rate, I am sure this driver would skip it entirely.
And so we start to see a behavioural pattern emerge that shows how culture has made a tried, tested, and true quality assurance tool just another feature. It is still helpful to ensure you never have to meet a particularly bad driver on Uber, but to serve its purpose of showing quality drivers or riders, it no longer works.
So what could work here? How can this be improved? I don’t know yet. This article is to show how culture impacts the usefulness of features in community-led products. So, if you want to build products the community way, listen to what your community says about what they need.