What is the impact of the new coronavirus pandemic on the way UX design teams work? It's more significant than what many tend to think. A virulent disease with a mortality rate of 3% to 5% threatens all sorts of activities, including UX design.
Because of the virus outbreak, it's compulsory for many UX design agencies to shut down their offices. Their employees have no choice but to do telecommuting if they want to continue working. Companies that continue running their offices have to provide lodging to their workers. It's something only a few businesses can afford.
To answer the question posited in the title: yes, COVID-19 affects UX design teams. The wide-ranging effects of the infection are inevitable. They disrupt the usual arrangements designers follow when completing a UX design project.
The Process of UX Design
To understand the effect of COVID-19 on UX teams, it helps to get acquainted with the UX design process.
UX design is a part of software development. Software creators also exert significant effort to ensure good user experience. It's not only about the user interface per se. Developers also have to look into what users think and feel when they use an application. They need to examine the bigger picture based on the likely perception of software users.
User experience design spans several phases of the software development process. These include planning, analysis, design, and implementation. During the planning stage, it's important to come up with a concept on how to make the user experience better. In the analysis stage, they need to see to it that they provide the best options. Likewise, they have to get rid of what's undesirable and unnecessary.
The UX design process typically involves a lot of meetings and presentations. Team members often need to meet and discuss what they plan to do. They also spend a lot of time re-evaluating plans and proposing tweaks and improvements. It's never going to be as easy as coming up with an idea and executing it right away. There will be several instances of rethinking and changes in approaches. These are necessary to satisfy the client's needs and preferences.
Some client requests may turn out to be nonviable. The specs they want may be impossible to do with currently available technology. As such, the development team has to propose alternatives that are doable and better. They have to undertake repeated discussions and brainstorming until they get the client's nod.
All these entail many discussions and the need for developers to be on call to do certain tasks. Clear and frequent communication is a must. It's an advantage when everyone is working in the same physical location. It's easier to explain design and experience ideas when people do personal discussions.
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UX Design Challenges Under the Teleworking Setup
Unfortunately, physical distancing and quarantines make it difficult to do personal interactions. Team members have to make compromises to discuss tasks effectively. Instead of doing personal presentations, they have to do everything online. They have to rely on video conferencing and other related technologies.
This is not to say that doing UX design via remote work is too difficult or impossible. It's just easier to assess plans and proposals when everyone is in the same room. It's also easier to hold team members accountable when they have to report to an office in person. Imagine the multitude of excuses procrastinating employees would use if they fail with their tasks.
Researching planning and the actual design process can be done individually. Likewise, submitting "UX deliverables" is doable without a personal appearance. The problem is in the tasks and meetings needed in reconciling plans and assessments. It's also difficult to examine completed designs and the tweaks needed in them.
Visual, user interface, and interaction designers work better when in the same workplace. In general, they prefer personal discussions. After all, they are working on designing user experiences. They need to see and feel things in their presence to have more sensible judgments. How can they scrutinize user experiences based on screenshots or descriptions?
Also, there's the issue of security. It's difficult to ensure the protection and confidentiality of client files with telecommuting. The careless of one team member can result in issues with the client.
Moreover, there's the challenge of not having access to the right equipment for the job. Design companies invest in top-quality computers capable of handling the most demanding tasks. Not all employees have the same caliber of computers. Designers who work from home may have to use their mediocre laptops or old desktops.
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Using Collaboration Platforms for UX Design
The good news is that there are excellent collaboration platforms available. Also, it's not difficult to find cloud-based UX design tools. It's possible to simulate the experience of working in an office together.
Many collaboration solutions don't only provide video conferencing and simple file-sharing functions. They also come with advanced desktop or screen sharing features. These allow team members to share what they have on their computer screens. Some even allow other members to take control of the screens of other team members.
When it comes to file sharing, many platforms come with advanced access controls. They allow members to annotate, edit, or copy documents securely. There's the option to hide files to members who are not involved in specific tasks.
Some remote workers may not have the right software to do their tasks efficiently. Some have access to the software, but their computers don't have the required specs.
The solution: cloud-based UX design tools. These online tools allow designers to do their job using computing resources and software stored in the cloud.