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Producing performance during a pandemic

Producing performance during a pandemic

As part of the #TTLPresents webinar series, our UX Planner, Melissa, hosted a webinar titled ‘Producing performance during a pandemic‘. You can watch the full webinar on The Tomorrow Lab YouTube channel.

Businesses – supporting customers and employees in new ways

You won’t need us to tell you that COVID–19 has forced companies to adapt quickly to change. Some are redesigning their products or services, whilst others are creating new ones in response to the changing demands of customers, staff, suppliers and stakeholders. Some organisations have even been able to grow and make good out of the current circumstances through innovation and fresh thinking.

The COVID–19 period has been characterised by new and emerging consumer behaviours, increased diversification of audiences, and digital technology becoming ever more the enabler. Embracing the analysis of data, user research and design–thinking are more important than ever in today’s changing landscape.

Mobile shopping

PhotoMIX (image owner). Mobile Ecommerce. Retrieved from Pexels.

During COVID–19, businesses have searched for ways to support employees and serve customers. Some have been in the fortunate position of being able to innovate their services to meet new demands. Throughout the hardship, some pretty amazing things happened…

  • Car manufacturers began making ventilators.
  • Schools shifted to online learning and digital classrooms.
  • Doctors began delivering telemedicine.
  • Grocery stores shifted to online ordering and delivery as their primary business.
  • Pollution levels where reduced across the world!

Users – adapting to ‘never normal’

In the space of just eight weeks consumers vaulted five years in digital adoption due to the stay–at–home guidelines. That brings us to the era of ‘never normal’, defined by McKinsey as fast–changing shifts in cultural norms, societal values and behaviours.

McKinsey reports that 75 percent of people now using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to “normal”.

So, what does this mean for our audiences and customers? We know that they’ve picked up new habits and behaviours. For example:

  • Many people turned to digital as their primary way to keep in touch and to buy essential goods.
  • Google search trends changed, as people around the world looked to online resources to keep them entertained and informed. For example, searches for ‘website training in Belfast’ have been usurped by terms like ‘online website training’. No longer are users searching for ‘personal trainers in Belfast’ but instead ‘online personal trainer’ or ‘at home leg workout’.
  • When COVID–19 hit, many consumers were in a different (often anxious) state of mind. Companies found their existing customer journey documents didn’t accurately reflect the new conditions surrounding people’s interactions with them.

How to respond to new consumer behaviours

There are lots of practical steps that organisations can take to mitigate some of the threats posed by COVID–19 and to boost the value they give their customers. Some actions include:

  • Redesign shopper journeys for consumers who might now be in a different state of mind.
  • Use content that reassures customers that their health and safety (and that of employees) is being looked after.
  • Deploy design methods to reduce anxiety (the UK Home Office has some great resources to get started).
  • Get to know your customers better. It doesn’t have to be a huge research undertaking – you can use polls on Instagram stories, incentivise a survey or run a few interviews to see how and if these new times have any impact on how customers are buying your product or use your service.
  • Recognise new trends. Your customers might now be shopping at different times within a remote work schedule, so keep an eye on your data and analytics.
  • Personalise according to user needs. People’s activities are still somewhat restricted to their home or limited outdoor time, meaning they aren’t going to be interested in buying products or services that they can’t use. Organise your landing pages based on the items that customers are most engaging with, giving convenience to the greatest number of users.

An emerging need – designing for older users

Among the many people who are now using digital for the first time, over–65s are shopping online twice as much. With this comes the hard truth that there’s been a natural increase in web users with reduced vision, hearing loss, physical impairments and other accessibility issues. Organisations need to rethink how they include and consider older people in online experiences.

Older user shopping online

Piacqaudio, A. (image owner). Older man making online payment. Retrieved from Pexels.

We know it can be hard to get buy–in to invest in accessibility and it sometimes becomes an afterthought or simply a compliance checkbox exercise. However, evidence shows that there is a strong business case for investing in accessible design. The WSC Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) explains that accessible websites usually work better for everyone; they are easier to use, they tend to be faster and they typically appear higher in search engine rankings too. Moreover, younger users who don’t usually consider themselves to have a disability can temporarily have the same needs as an older user who does. Consider video captions, which help older users with hearing loss. They also make it possible for anyone to consume video content in noisy public environments without headphones.

How to design for older people

To meet the needs of older users, WAI recommends meeting all WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA success criteria, and some from AAA. Below are just a few examples – you can find the full list of recommendations for older users on the WAI webpage Developing websites for Older People.

  • Allow text to be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.
  • Avoid fully–aligned or centre–aligned text.
  • Avoid large chunks of italicised text.
  • Provide a button on the page to increase line spaces and paragraph spaces.
  • Give text and images a colour contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 (7:1 is better).
  • Mix audio files so that non–speech sounds are at least 20 decibels lower than the speech audio content.
  • Provide a visible keyboard focus indicator and allow users to tab through all of a page’s content.
  • Tell users where they are; indicate their current location within navigation bars and provide a breadcrumb trail.
  • Give users advanced warning before opening a new window.

Key takeaways from the webinar

We hope you get a chance to watch the full webinar. We’ll leave you with the top five takeaways:

  • Revisit journeys for consumers in a different state of mind and with different behaviours.
  • Do your research on users.
  • Keep on top of your data.
  • Make your products accessible – especially for older users.
  • Apply design thinking to solve meaty problems!

Cover image: de Richelieu, A. (Photographer). Business people wearing face masks and talking [digital image]. Retrieved from Pexels / modified from original.

By Melissa Boyle

UX Director

Mel has over seven years of experience managing digital projects and driving tangible results for clients.

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