Designing an e-learning platform



September 2017


UX/UI Design
and HTML/CSS development


Bertil van Vugt (producer)
Catherine Gray (product owner)
Hendrik Admiraal (developer)
Nelson Kana (developer)


The context.

Since 2007, VC4Africa aims to strengthen Africa's startup community by connecting entrepreneurs creating innovative and scalable businesses with knowledge, network and funding they require to succeed.

In 2017, for the 10 years of the company, the company partnered with the Work in Progress! alliance (OXFAM Novib) to create this e-learning platform.
This platform is offering online courses for entrepreneurs and investors operating across Africa.

Start your business, Grow your business and Finance your business are the three topics offered by the online course platform when we launched it.

High-fidelity mockup of a lesson from the online platform

High-fidelity mockup of a lesson from the online platform


The goals.

The primary goal of this project was to ensure a qualitative user experience for the e-trainees, especially on mobile and with low-speed bandwidth.

Thanks to our benchmark, we were aware of the difficulties for some e-learning and MOOC platform with the abandonment of the lessons.
That's why we also tried to develop an interface helping our users to not abandon a course they subscribed to.
Directly accessible from the VC4A platform, this e-learning platform was also developed to push young entrepreneurs to publish their projects on VC4A.


Some elements from our benchmark


The research.

For this project, a first design was created by Zilt Studio, and this existing design was developed as a minimum viable product.
We released a first version of the Academy based on this design in June 2017, and we tested it with a selection of users for few weeks.

After these few weeks, I ran a dozen of user interviews to understand how to improve this first design.
We selected users from 5 countries across Africa, with a variety of backgrounds from urban students to entrepreneurs in the countryside. We discussed their experience with the platform, their usage of Internet and the successes and challenges they face every day.

From these interviews and a survey sent to all participants, I identified potential ways to improve the first design and new features we had to implement. One of these features was the download button for each lesson.
With the product owner, we chose to develop this feature after hearing the stories of some interviewees who sometimes travelled two hours to have an Internet connection good enough to download all lessons in a course to consult them once back home.


Course presentation

Not existing in the first version, we created this page after our users' interviews to limit the lack of information about each course they experienced.


The development and the release.

In September 2017, we were able to finally release the new design and the new journeys.
Private beta-testing, user interviews, survey: we chose to develop this platform with an interactive and agile workflow. We learned and improved this platform at every step of the project.

During the development, we took our time to develop a mobile-friendly interface. We collaborate closely with Hendrik—the lead developer—to use as many asynchronous and on-request content to limit the bandwidth used by our website. This constraint was significant for our users who have expensive data plans in most of African's countries we were targetting.

Few months after the release, the platform was full-fitting all the goals established by the Work in Progress! alliance and we received an important amount of positive feedback from our users.


“The user is genuinely guided from one stage of the course to the other, and from anywhere on the globe provided they have a computer and a good internet connection.”

– ICT.IO about the VC4a Academy and its design



Hi, I'm Damien, a user centered designer based in Amsterdam.

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