Mobile-first approach helps refugees

Filed under:

Strategy, Tech, Design
Taoti Creative worked with IIE to develop A key strategy was our understanding that the targeted users were likely using mobile phones on limited bandwidth networks.

For the last 6 years, the Syrian Civil war has displaced millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of young people who are desperately trying to complete their schooling. While there are many organizations trying to help, there has been no place for these refugees to search for the programs and tools designed to help them. To fill this need, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has initiated the PEER project to create a mobile-first Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (

The platform offers young refugees and Internationally Displaced People (IDP) an online clearinghouse of scholarship and educational opportunities. It also offers institutions a medium for reaching out to these affected populations and enacting the change necessary to heal wounds, old and new.

Taoti Creative worked with IIE to develop this unique tool. Taoti took a Low-Bandwidth & Mobile-First approach to the project. While many people try to retrofit a website designed for high-bandwidth locations to work in the Middle East or Africa, Taoti understood that many of the targeted users were likely to use mobile phones on limited bandwidth networks.

To make the site accessible, nearly all the pages are designed to have a tiny 200KB total page size and load in less than 4 seconds on a limited 3G connection.

Initial results have been extremely successful showing page load times less than 4 seconds in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Even mobile phone users in war-torn Syria have page load times of 6 seconds.

More than 50% of new users are located in the Middle East and North Africa. After the US, most users come from Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Germany or Lebanon, the target countries for the site. Of those users, 75% use a mobile phone and the bounce rate for mobile users is only about 10% more than desktop users, which speaks to the effectiveness of the mobile-first design.

We are continuing to add features like mentor signup and an Arabic version of the site. Taoti is now using these lessons to improve performance on all the sites it develops, and uses a mobile-first methodology on many projects. We’d love to learn about your digital project and discuss ways we could help. Drop us a line!

If you are interested in becoming involved in the PEER project, reach out to its IIE administrators at, or email You can also become one of the first official PEER volunteers by visiting and submitting a short expression of interest form.