Youth Business International

This case study is a great example of employing the principle:

Start with user needs, and keep them involved

Youth Business International (YBI) is a global network of independent nonprofit initiatives operating in over 50 countries. They help young people to start and grow their own business and create employment.

They wanted to redevelop their online community, to enable their international members to connect and engage with each other, sharing knowledge and best practice so they can better support young entrepreneurs across the world.

YBI had a list of potential features they wanted to develop, but wanted to find out more about how their users were engaging with the current site to make sure they built the right thing, in the right order, on the new community. They needed to start with user needs, and keep them involved.

Although the YBI team were already speaking frequently with their members, they needed to structure their conversations specifically to find out how members were using the online community, what types of things they needed to be able to do, and what other tools they used in their day to day work – all so they could build up an unbiased picture of their users, their behaviour, their pain points and goals.

With CAST’s support, they lined up six users to talk to, wrote a detailed discussion guide to run through with each of the participants, and did one hour interviews via Skype. The interviewees were based all over the world, so there were some early mornings and late evenings to get this done!

After that first round of interviews, they pulled out any common themes from the conversations and decided where to focus on for the next round. They adapted the discussion guides to explore some of those areas in a bit more detail, then ran more interviews – going off-piste from the guides if something interesting came up. They did a few rounds like this and talked to 16 users in total, finessing the guides in each round until they were able to identify common user needs.

They then created prototypes or sketches of potential community pages to show to members, based on user needs. Luckily there was a week-long Masterclass event which lots of international members were attending, so they were able to get feedback from a big pool of people each day, update the sketches based on that information, then go back the next day to do more testing.

“The development of our online community has been a valuable opportunity to learn more about our members, but also to build digital capabilities within our team and enhance our approach to product design at YBI through User Centred Design. Through our work with CAST our team has witnessed first-hand what can be gained by putting users at the forefront of any design process - particularly in digital, and we have made great strides in adopting this approach across our organisation.”

Charné, Digital Community Manager at YBI


Because YBI did this user research before they started developing, they were able to save money as it turned out that some of the features they’d planned to develop weren’t actually necessary for their members at that time. By involving the users, they also gained a lot of momentum and buy-in across the network and they now have a group of people who are keen to test and give feedback for this and future projects.

YBI continue to involve users: getting feedback from members on more detailed mock-ups of the community, doing usability testing, and for other internal projects too.

About the Principle
Start with user needs, and keep them involved
How does this apply to the case study?

Before building or designing anything, you must start by researching and understanding your users’ needs. This means gaining a deep understanding of their situation, behaviours, attitudes, problems and goals.