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Rise of UX through COVID-19

James Matthews is Principal Consultant at Speed’s sister agency Ethology. Specialising in optimising communications that shape customer experience, Ethology create intuitive online journeys and interfaces that increase customer advocacy.

With the introduction of lock down and social distancing, the need to work, live and buy remotely has led to a surge in online activity. Whilst physical experiences are bound to return at some point, there will be new needs and expectations set by the crisis that will last a lifetime.

With the majority of retailers closing stores temporarily, we’re likely to see a huge shift to online shopping in many retail sectors. Retailers face many different challenges at this time. Some may see website visitor numbers decline, so it becomes more important to make the most of the traffic that does come in, working harder than ever to increase conversion rates.

Other sectors face the challenge of adapting to increased customer demand, trying to maintain stock levels and delivery performance in difficult times. Here are just a few ways we’re working with clients to help them thrive in the new environment by better understanding customer needs and how to serve them.

Defining New Needs & Expectations


Understanding the expectations and needs of customers are the cornerstones of customer experience. COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed needs and expectations dramatically, so by having a good understanding of what these are you will posses a solid foundation to create and deliver communications and services that are more likely to resonate and connect with your customers, whilst also aiding differentiation. This, in-turn, drives loyalty and advocacy – vital at this time.


You can conduct light-touch research of your customers and your market from what is available within your organisation and online:

– competitor benchmarking to aid definition of customer needs and expectations

– out of sector and trend reporting

– what else can you learn from and be inspired by?

– gap analysis (where you meet, exceed or fall short of identified expectations)

– needs-based profiles (grouping customers by defined needs in order to serve those needs)

Website UX Review & Conversion Rate Optimisation


User Experience and usability are key to creating online experiences that satisfy – and hopefully exceed – the expectations of your customers. It’s never been more important to ensure your web presence acknowledges the primary needs of your customers, delivers the best brand experience and is optimised to drive conversion.


Conduct an initial website UX review based on conversion principals covering each stage of the user journey (Attention, Engagement, Action and Flow), identifying barriers to conversion and making recommendations for improvements based on business effort Vs. impact on user experience.

A UX review on its own can quickly inform key website improvements, but we can also combine best-practice UX and usability principals with website analytics and any other behavioural insight available to provide a more informed approach to optimisation. You can then work to implement website changes, including rapid A/B testing of new layouts and content to see which approaches are most effective.

Online Tree Testing


Your website visitors rely on your website’s Information Architecture – how you label and organize your products/services and content – to get things done. Tree testing helps you understand how easily users can find information on your website, and exactly where they may get lost, leading to abandonment and lost sales. Tree testing can answer questions like: Do my labels make sense to users – is information grouped logically? Can users find the information they want easily and quickly? If not, what’s stopping them?


Online testing software such as Optimal Workshop makes it easier than ever to conduct user research remotely, including speedily recruiting and screening participants against basic profiling criteria. You then need to interpret the results to provide key recommendations for optimisation.

Online Card Sorting


Card sorting is a well-established research technique for discovering how people understand and categorise information. The results can be used to inform the way you group and label your website products/services and information in a way that makes the most sense to your audience. The more intuitive your website Information Architecture and product taxonomy, the easier it will be for customers to purchase through your website.

Card sorting is useful when you want to:

– design a new website or section of a website, or improve an existing website

– find out how your users expect to see your information grouped on your website

– discover and compare how users understand different concepts or ideas

– get people to rank or arrange items based on set criteria.


As with Tree Testing, online testing software such as Optimal Workshop makes it easier than ever to conduct user research remotely. It’s then a case of identifying revised taxonomy that is more intuitive for your customers.

Smallest of optimisations yield results

The above activities are efficient and cost-effective to conduct and the resulting recommendations are immediately actionable. Online software facilitates research at scale, allowing us to reach user demographics globally to produce robust insight in a way traditional research methods can’t. At a time when the focus is online, there’s really no excuse not to evaluate the experience you’re offering your customers. We’ve seen the smallest of optimisations yield significant results.

Tags: Covid-19customer journeyusabilityux