What UX Designers Can Learn From Covid-19

April 28, 2020

If you’re anything like me these last several weeks have been a real whirlwind. From the nationwide shelter in place, to not being able to link up with friends and family, all the way to the unbelievable nationwide death toll; this is far worse than anyone could have ever imagined. Over these last few weeks, I like many people, have had a lot of time to think. As trying as this moment is for so many of us, there are always valuable takeaways. As a UX/UI Designer, I’ve been drawing a lot of similarities between Covid-19 reporting and UX.

Hypotheses are important, but don’t need to be shared with everyone!

Since the first case of the Covid-19 virus was reported in the US, speculation began to swirl about how it could be contracted, how many people could become affected, and what the cure was if any. The unfortunate thing about this virus is that experts and scientists are working in real time to find solutions. I say unfortunate because just about every day there’s a new report about potential cures, how it's spread, etc. Before I go any further I have to say that absolutely NONE of the medications or treatments that have been mentioned in the media have been proven to cure the Corona virus. Please do not look into any of these as any form of treatment.

Hydrocloriquine, famotidine, plasma treatment, remdesivir, and drugs that have been used to treat HIV patients have all been touted as potential cures. The biggest issue here is that all of these treatments are purely ideas. They have not been proven to cure the virus. Similarly in UX we have hypotheses as well as that’s how we start off any research process. You have to have it. However what you don’t have to do is tell your users, audience, customers, etc. what that hypothesis is. Keep it close within your team to prevent the spread of misinformation and getting the hopes up of your users. During my career as a UX Designer I’ve had several hypothesis for projects. Sometimes you don’t even know that a particular idea wont work until you start having conversations with your development team and find out your idea is outside of technical limitations. All this means is that you have to find another way to achieve the same goal.

Building trust with your customers and audience is crucial!

At this point the amount of misinformation is almost equal to the amount of proven facts. Like most people, I’ve been strictly listening to the scientists when it comes to getting my information, but even they’ve gotten it wrong. First young people are less likely to be affected, now we’ve seen not only people under 30 contracting the virus, but falling victim to the virus. The CDC also initially told the public that face coverings wouldn’t help to stop the spread. This never sat right with me because, if it’s a virus and can be transmitted similarly to other viruses, why wouldn’t covering ones face help? We now know that the CDC has come out and said face coverings are indeed helpful to slow the spread. But my rant here isn’t about getting it wrong. We’re trying to figure this out in real time.  However, it’s how you address your audience when you’ve gotten it wrong. Do you come right out and say “Hey, we’ve got new information that goes against our previous statement.”? Or do you wait and let the misinformation fester causing more confusion amongst your audience? Again, we’re going through this in real time, so we expect this. But how do you indeed prevent this kind of mistrust with your audience?

As a UX Designer, Researcher, etc. you are the expert! Your audience is trusting not only the product you put out, but that you’ve done your own research to get there. They don’t really think about, how many times it was tested, and who the test subjects were because that's not their job. They give you their money (and trust) and expect you to provide a product or service and to do it well. An easy way to have your audience not trust you is if your product doesn’t meet their expectations. This can come in various forms, but you get the gist. So the next time you’re looking to launch a new feature or product, make sure you’re doing so thoroughly.

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