Extended user testing

PATH “road tests” household water treatment products in India

An Indian family assembles a water filter device in their home.

Twenty households helped us test existing water filter devices. Photo: PATH.

One of the primary challenges in developing a household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) product for households earning between $1 and $5 a day is a lack of understanding of how, when, why, and by whom such products might be used—or not used—in real life.

Even in India, where HWTS products have achieved some market penetration among lower-income households, few developers have had an opportunity to watch households interact with the product—use it, clean it, repair it, and, in some cases, abandon it—and even fewer know how or why.

To overcome this challenge, PATH contracted with Quicksand Design (www.quicksand.co.in)  to co-design and conduct a longitudinal ethnographic study on user experiences with existing HWTS products in India. This extended user testing (EUT) ran for ten months in 2009 in the state of Andhra Pradesh and provided PATH the opportunity to “road test” five available HWTS products in 20 different households in both rural and semi-urban areas for six months each.

The products placed included Rama gravity water purifiers (Rama, India, http://www.ramawaterfilter.com/products/gravity-water-filter), PureIt multistage filters (Hindustan Unilever, India, http://www.pureitwater.com/IN/), AquaSure multistage filters (Eureka Forbes, India, http://forbesaquasure.tripod.com), LifeStraw Family purifier (Vestergaard Frandsen, Switzerland, http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/lifestraw/lifestraw-family) and Rabbit ceramic water pots (Hydrologic, Cambodia, http://www.hydrologichealth.com/). The study revealed much about what works and does not work and helped identify key product attributes that might influence the adoption and sustained, correct use of future iterations of HWTS durable products.


To watch more videos of the EUT, visit the full video playlist on YouTube. Findings from the EUT are summarized in a project brief and a photo essay on Flickr, both of which can be downloaded and shared.

PATH is using the information and insights from the EUT study to inform the development of functional HWTS prototypes designed specifically for the low-income user in India. Many of the insights are also being used to inform marketing strategies for low-income households who have little experience with HWTS products or water treatment in general.

Together with PATH’s other research efforts, the EUT study has contributed to a set of design guidelines that was publically shared in early 2011.  The design guidelines can be used by any product designer, developer, nongovernmental organization, or manufacturer wishing to improve or create a HWTS product for low-income households.

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