Designer's lesson from COVID-19

COVID 19 Pandemic

COVID 19 has disrupted the entire design community. It has put up a barrier on the way we work. We are locked up at home, we have limited mobility, we cannot leverage the benefits of design collaborations on a whiteboard, we cannot do field trips and spend time with users and we can't go out for ice-creams on Fridays as well.
Everything went virtual. This virtuality helps us learn new things, we adjust to new normal, we change our working style, our sleep habits have changed and the customer who uses our products is also evolving like us. We are all situationally disabled at the moment and are looking into newer ways of defining things.
While the impact is tremendous, it has also given the Design community an opportunity to learn from this situation. In such times when every aspect of our existence has undergone a change and is expected to change even more, one cannot just rely on the old methods and approaches to design the best products possible. While designing the products of the present and of the uncertain future, we as designers need to take cognizance of evolving trends and concepts and be ready to pivot as per the prevailing circumstances.

A shift in user behaviour
There has been a fundamental shift in the user behaviour since the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the world. The change has been evident in everyone’s behaviour no matter whether someone is a daily wage earner, a shopkeeper, an IT professional or a businessman. The changes are evident in all spheres of our lives i.e. how we interact, how we shop, how we commute, how we plan or how we entertain ourselves etc. This has led to the emergence of new design patterns. We as designers need to equip ourselves to understand strategies to implement them.
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We need to be even more observant and develop a strong sense of empathy to understand how things are changing, how behaviours are changing and what are the problems that our target customers are facing to design solutions that bring value to them.

Learning 2.0
In today’s world as a designer we cannot rely on our past experiences and assumptions. We’ll have to come up with the engaging ways of conducting our research in a contactless world. No more you can do face-to-face interviews or can conduct in-premise workshops. We’ll have to strengthen the disciplines of running remote interviews, online workshops, conduct remote user testing, and remotely gathering feedback from our stakeholders.
The importance of understanding analytics has increased manifold and as designers we’re now required to understand data collected and derive actionable insights from them. No more you should be dependent on data scientists to come and provide you insights.

We as designers need to embrace agility in our designs, in our research, and in our processes. We should always focus on creating modular design elements which although work in tandem properly but can be changed or can be removed or can be scaled up or down based on the business environment. We should avoid heavy monolithic designs which are difficult to maintain and change. Multi-options, hand raising in teams, background noise
reduction in teams, meet. Scalability of online conferencing apps. Daily changing messages and options on food and essential delivery apps.
Agility needs to be in business as well.. Selling essentials.

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Engaging Users
In today’s world, it might happen that your business offering has been rendered moot for an indefinite period because of various restrictions and changing customer behaviour. In such scenarios, it becomes very important to keep your users engaged so that you still enjoy the share of their minds while you can’t claim your share of their wallets.
CureFit, one of the leading chains of holistic fitness centres, had a good digital presence, but as their brick-and-mortar centres were closed, they shifted all of their focus online to ensure their clients are maintaining good physical and mental health. Myntra, one of the leading online fashion retailers kept posting content related to fitness, fashion and grooming and ensured delivery of essential items related to grooming when they were unable to sell their main fashion related inventory. BookMyShow, one of the major ticketing platforms to book tickets for Movies, Shows, Events, Experiences, Sports etc. premiered online concerts, comedy events, etc. to ensure people still login to their app and they remain relevant when scope of entertainment is confined within the walls of your home.
List is endless where apps have asked customers to build their wishlists, participate in online competitions, tipping people who are delivering food and essentials despite all odds or have sent relevant content to keep their customers engaged.
Engagement becomes more important if a designer realizes that in today’s competition if you are out of sight, you are out of mind of the customers.

Small gestures are important
In today’s world where people have lost physical contact and “social distancing” has become a norm, it has become even more important to provide a personal touch (although contactless) which brings smile to the customers. As designers we need to constantly explore possibilities to bring delight to customers and strengthen their beliefs that we as a business are doing everything we can to keep a safe environment. People need to be assured that they’re not alone in this ordeal and we as an organization are doing whatever we can to alleviate their suffering.
EasyDiner and Dineout, restaurant reservations apps, extended their paid membership cycles by three to four months as they knew people won’t be able to go out and eat when restaurants and roads are closed because of lockdown curfews. A lot of delivery apps which were able to deliver food and essentials quickly started options to select “contactless deliveries”, body temperature of their riders, information about sanitation measures taken care by stores or restaurants, option to add tips for the riders etc. to show they care about their customers safety and are trying their best to provide services.
Google made its “Meet” product free to enable online conferences for everyone which was a paid product earlier.

What’s next?
Covid-19 has indeed shaped the world in a way none of us had imagined. In today’s world the importance of digital has increased manifold as “contactless” becomes the norm. Therefore, as designers our job becomes challenging to understand current scenarios and
then create products which not only helps the customers to fulfill a need but also brings delight to them. We need to understand how the user behaviour is shifting, how effectively we can conduct our research to understand the shifting user behavior , how can that understanding help us build agile designs, how those designs can help our customers engage and how we can add small meaningful gestures in our designs to bring delight to our customers.
The above mentioned points are not an exhaustive list we need to bear in mind while designing our products, but are meant to spark ideas and thoughts in a direction that is different from the one we were thinking before Covid-19 swept the world.
Photo Credits: Edward Jenner from Pexels

About Author

Sophia Sharma UX Author

Sophia Sharma
Senior User Experience Designer
Cerner healthcare Solutions

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