ux for distressing times

UX for Distressing Times

Photo credits: Cheng Feng

What we do, how we do it – inaction or action – has a ripple effect.

It is the 16th of March, and I was preparing this post yesterday after seeing the developments of the Coronavirus. Back track 2 weeks ago on the 1st of March, I was preparing for my trip to Europe. With flights booked in December, as well as festival tickets, I had planned my route – landing in Geneva, skiing in the French Alps and visiting the fashion city of Milan. I was excited. But in just 2 weeks, reality was sinking in.

I’ve experienced the high’s and low’s. Many websites are great at making you check out. As UX Designers, this is a skill we have honed. But take a look at the flip side, are we prepared to know what to do (or advise) in times where customers are in panic mode? And that could possibly be a wide range of behaviours depending geographically. Touching on geopolitical situations, how aware are we towards our customer base and is our language, tone and content addressing their needs?

I know that I will be touching a bit on business, but after my experience I hope to share what I believe is good experience that is simple, effective and creates good ripple effects.

1. Communicate

First, here are 4 ways to address the situation:

  1. Video
  2. Email
  3. Website
  4. Social Media

I’ve ordered based on it’s level of effectiveness. As you can see, video ranks as one of the top. Why do I think so? First, it is a direct means of communication that is effective and provides an emotional perspective to the user (or customer). In times like this, a ‘personal’ or heat-to-heart conversation can give emotional security, instead of textual-based forms.

Red Church’s response to COVID-19 is simple, personal and effective.

Lastly, take note of the following and design for inclusivity:

  1. Language translations
  2. People with disability

Although we see that many are using social media as a way to update and reach out, it is the least personal in my opinion. Consider email over social media, or use both to convey the same message.

2. Empathise

The core of what we do is to understand our users, and if in any means an unforeseeable circumstance has strip them of any control – we should provide enough assistance that is ethically right. Allow users to have the assurance that they can find support from you.

Start with simple ways:

  1. Open up an online chat help desk
  2. A page for updates on the latest developments
  3. Specific email address or hotline
  4. Community chat group or social media

Trust me, FAQs can be annoying and frustrating. Users are smart enough to know the FAQ doesn’t work in times like this. Some will just rush in to send an email or find any means of contacting you, especially when you are dealing with the nature of bookings and reservations.

It is good to have a specific page on your website to address the situation in an open manner. Provide information that can resolve some common questions, such as refunds and postponement dates. Have good communication etiquette and reach out with clarity to the situation and assurance.

Emirates provides a page update on the COVID-19 outbreak

I hope this makes it easy for you to get a quick overview. I will update as the time comes for good practices. These actions might seem small, but can speak volumes on the values you carry towards your business and customers.

Stay safe,

Tracey Wong

Digital Product Designer based in Kuala Lumpur.

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