Love in the time of Covid-19

UX Research

Some fortunate countries seem to have the virus under control and are looking to ease lockdown restrictions. It will be interesting to see what business changes we’ll see as the lockdowns are eased and everyday life returns to a more recognisable state. Who or what will emerge as the winners? Particularly from a digital perspective.

Social Media

When Facebook was originally created, it was designed to be a community platform for students –the intention was never to build the corporate Goliath that it has become, nor was it designed to be a place to share and collaborate with outside communities. However times have changed and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, Whatsapp – the list goes on – have all been vitally important resources to keep up to date and in touch with family and friends during this time. The companies themselves have been cooperating with Governments as channels to distribute important information and have worked to crack down on charlatans peddling misinformation and fake products. Perhaps Covid-19 will be the redemption of social media?

Online retail and delivery

Already monstering the established department stores and shopping centres this period of isolation  will have accelerated the online shopping trend even further. We can expect to see the closure of more physical stores and a continued love affair with online retail, even after the lockdown eases. It will be important for designers to create enticing, engaging and intuitive interfaces that are easy to use, and encourage repeat patronage. And of course with a continuing shift towards online retail, we can expect to see an increase in shipping platforms that enable fast delivery and returns. Online food delivery had become an important part of the (gig) economy pre-covid and even more relevant now. We are currently completing a study of the various sites and their user experience which we should have published soon.

Software

Atlassian, an Australian software giant, responsible for the software development communication tool, Jira, reported stellar profits in the last week and commented that they are little affected by Covid-19. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Agile teams are working from home and need collaborative software to work together. This has been a time to shine for the likes of Slack, Zoom, Google, Microsoft and multiple smaller players operating in niche product areas. Whatever the area you work in, there is a digital platform that can help keep your teams working, and therefore ultimately deliver your product.

Telcos

Malcolm Turnbull must feel somewhat vindicated for the $45 billion that Australia invested in the NBN. It’s a bit like the desalination plant in Kurnell. A waste of taxpayers money until you really need it, but when you need it you really need it. Now would be a good time to build a case for the acceleration of the rollout of the 5G network to increase the speed of mobile devices.

Banks

If like my father you didn’t bank online, well, you do now. Fortunately, Australian banks have been digitising all their processes over the last few years, so it’s no longer necessary to physically visit a branch.  Now is the perfect time for our banks to drop their expensive retail network and move more people online – a move which will not only save them money but will allow them to compete with the ‘Neobanks’ (purely digital banks that have no physical infrastructure) that are coming after their business.  However, similar to the neobanks, established banks need to invest in their online interfaces enabling simpler usability, engagement and trust.

Government

Perhaps a benevolent dictator is not such a bad idea when it works in our interest. The Government, both politicians and the various departments, deserve plaudits for the speed and determination in which they have acted. It must have been hectic in Canberra for the last month with the need to make policy by the hour and get it actioned. An example, we know well is the Covidsafe app which the DTA (Digital Transformation Agency) borrowed from Singapore and had operational in a very short period of time. It’s been downloaded by 5.4 million people so far. We tested the app and made a video of our findings- CovidSafe.

Online Entertainment

Disney+ could not have really launched at a better time – both for the company and for ‘work’ from home parents everywhere. Netflix has been rushing shows through production to release them ahead of schedule. Zwift has been hosting mass participation bicycle races featuring professional riders stuck in their homes. Steam and other gaming platforms have been breaking records, with Steam achieving 20 million people using their platform at the same time.

All this points to a shift from analogue and physical, to digital and virtual.  A need to increase investment in the usability of these platforms is irrefutable if they are to ride the wave and continue to serve the ever-increasing demands of their ever-growing customer base. There is no doubt that digital will play a larger part of our lives in the future, and users now expect a seamless, simple experience. As we near the end of the financial year and COVID pessimism is reducing we are busier than ever doing remote usability and UX research. The competition is heating up and customers won’t settle for the ugly, clunky and frustrating interfaces of the past.