The COVID crisis has presented me, a UX Researcher, with quite a few challenges. A couple of months ago, my most important tool was taken away: observation. I suddenly couldn’t engage and experience alongside my target group or seeing them interact with the things we designed. This forced me to find remote alternatives for the many research methods and tools we use on a daily basis. However, the biggest challenge of the past few months turned out to be doing the actual research during these very dynamic and uncertain times. How to get accurate, up-to-date insights when peoples context is constantly changing (impacting users’ needs and goals)? And what is my role in supporting both users and clients to weather the storm and recover from the COVID-19 crisis?
Falling in love with a problem happens through observing it happen in a relevant context, where and when the problem is occurring to people.Tomer Sharon, Head of User Research & Metrics at Goldman Sachs
First of all, UX research can help companies identify these changes in behaviour, needs and goals. Not only the different rules and regulations, but the perception of a threat (COVID-19) results in users’ activities, motivations and emotions being very different from before COVID-19. For the travel industry, for example, this means that the decision-making process takes a lot longer because people tend to feel out the situation and book last-minute because they feel unsure about when, how and where to travel.
Second, UX research can also play a role in driving these changes in behaviour. An effective way to do this is to identify the new peak moments (moments of intense customer reaction) and refine their product- and service offering accordingly. Or, as people associate certain behaviour with a specific context, UX research can help identify or design these new contextual cues.
In the travel industry the changes in travel behaviour will occur until there is a vaccine or other type of medicine. These changes might even have their impact well beyond that point: as a lot of people are now discovering the value of other ways of travel (such as travelling locally, with more flexibility and independence) some may never go back to the way they used to spend their holidays. Now is the time for travel companies to start conducting ‘rapid’ UX research (UX research on a regular and consistent basis) in order to keep identifying and tracking these changed behaviours, beliefs and motivators. This can be done by, for example, using data to see how customer behaviour is changing and combining this with more qualitative research (e.g. interviews) to find more about the people’s beliefs and motivators. By doing this e.g. every week or month, these insights can continue to reflect people’s current context, or their current behaviours, needs, and goals.
UX Research has a huge part to play in helping organisations navigating through the unknown. Now is the time to start understanding these rapidly changing, emerging behaviours and use this output to innovate their product- and service offerings. Only then they can weather the storm and come out of this stronger than ever. If this article inspired you and you want to talk about the impact UX research can have on your business, please reach out!