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The role of design in transition to "the new normal"

Published on Jul 09, 2020
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The outbreak of the COVID pandemic instilled the notion that we are living in a world of continuous change. In recent times, contactless UI has surfaced the industry and businesses are more and more resorting to the automation of operations. 

But one sentiment that stands out is — why are we humans pursuing automation? 

Post pandemic, we shall be racing to a world where there will be a paradigm shift in the way we work and the way we interact. Automation will take over most of our physical interactions; be it in our kitchen or a warehouse. When automation will become the new normal, it will be upon us as designers to deliver the right experience.

The current pandemic will cast a long-lasting impact. Every industry, including design, is forced to flex, evolve and adapt to the ‘New Normal’. As designers, it has always been our duty to craft frictionless experiences for users. But now the coronavirus has made us rethink and create interfaces that are not only frictionless but also touchless.

To keep the business as usual and let the digital interfaces adapt to the new normal, design is going to play a vital role. Here’s how.

1. Empathy will inspire the new interface designs

To reduce the spread of the virus via touch, control of the workplace environment shall be transferred to each person’s smart device hence reducing dependencies. Bluetooth for accessing the company-specific application in place of biometric will become the need of time. From sign-in tablets to biometric fingerprint scans, all of these conveniences have started to look like threats to health. Empathy will be at the core of inspiration while designing an interface for both internal and external users. 

2. Gesture controls & sensors to replace touch interfaces

We have been largely using sensors for sanitary purposes like soap and toothpaste dispensers, hand dryers, and trash cans. Touchless digital interfaces were common in gaming and in luxurious interfaces but were never a need before.

Gesture control and motion sensors will replace the public interfaces that generally use touchscreens like ATMs, inquiry kiosks, to name some. The more realistic and accurate experience this UI delivers, the better it will adapt to people’s needs. While designing gesture controls, it is always a good idea to ask for feedback and reiterate the design to make it more comfortable and accessible.

3. Use of Voice

The way users interact with a voice user interface is entirely different from their behavior with a graphical interface. People generally associate ‘voice’ as talking to another human and not generally to technology. However, in recent times VUI is increasing in number, sophistication and availability. Implementing a voice user interface along with a graphical user interface shall prove to be more convenient and provide a smoother customer journey.


“Speech is a fundamental means of human communication. Even when other forms of communication - such as writing, facial expressions, or sign language - would be equally expressive, (hearing people) in all cultures persuade, inform and build relationships primarily through speech.”
-  Clifford Nass and Scott Brave, Stanford researchers and authors 

4. Face recognition

To render a touchless and frictionless experience, face recognition in organizations can prove to be useful in place of biometric recognition. It requires no conscious activity by the user. The opportunities are fathomless. Suppose you are the head of an organization, when you walk in, the building recognizes you and initiates the entire process of attendance, logging time, authentication, and spreading info about your arrival to the concerned teams. Facial recognition systems are more secure in terms of authenticating users and prevents breaching.

The Crux

COVID-19 is raising our awareness about how easily we facilitate the spread of germs through our day-to-day interactions. But in the ‘New Normal’ we do know it is accelerating digital transformation and faster adoption of workplace technology. By understanding what will be expected from the design industry, we can hone our competencies to deliver better interfacing experiences.

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