UI and UX Changes in Big Tech Due to COVID-19

During the beginning stages of the pandemic, we saw a flurry of activity from digital companies to adjust to the coming changes. Features were implemented quickly as the tech world tried to get information into the hands of users.

In this article we’ll be focusing purely on the UI and UX developments from tech giants in the field that have a lot of presence in our everyday lives. This is a unique, once-in-a-generation phenomenon, so we are all learning how to alter our lifestyles during this time.

A big thank you to the tremendous contributions from the companies below – no matter how you may feel about them, their recent actions cannot be denied during this crisis. Stay safe out there friends, wash your hands, be as cautious as possible – we’ll get through this.

COVID-19 Resources

Before we get started, listed below are a number of informational resources for COVID-19 from reputable sources.

A United Front

Some of the largest tech companies issued a joint statement on their efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s rare we’ve seen such industry-wide collaboration, but of course this is an unusual time.

Facebook

Facebook pushed out a number of informational resources within their app to help get people to COVID-19 information faster.

Immediately on the homepage, users may see the following card on their timeline.

Users can choose to follow information (which gets added to the timeline) or visit Facebook’s COVID-19 dedicated page.

There are other methods to get to the dedicated COVID-19 page. On the left hand navigation, the page is promoted to the top of the list.

Searching “COVID” through the search bar will bring up the card for the dedicated informational page.

Right away you can see prevention tips, which have been circulating around from the CDC.

The Facebook Coronavirus page has its own timeline. Accredited institutions are promoted on the right, while updates across the internet are compiled on the left.

Users can also `Request Help`, posting their needs in a dedicated board.

Instagram

Each of Facebook’s apps have reacted differently to the pandemic. For now I’ll only touch upon Instagram.

Instead of solely promoting informational resources, Instagram decided to go a more community-based route in order to foster socializing and togetherness.

A `Stay Home` story was added to the Story bar, which congregates all stories by people you follow who have used the `Stay Home` sticker.

In addition, they’ve added group video chatting. Users can all browse through instagram together, looking at whatever content they want. An interesting reaction to the pandemic, but potentially useful seeing as a huge portion of the world is quarantined.

Microsoft

It’s no surprise Microsoft has presence in many areas of our digital lifestyle now, but in particular I want to highlight 2 major projects they pushed out with partners:

  • Collaborative project with the CDC – a healthcare symptom checker chatbot.
  • Bing’s COVID-19 Data Map

CDC Symptom Checker

the CDC Symptom Checker is meant to be a resource for people who believe they are sick or may be exhibiting symptoms from COVID-19. It’s set up in a chatbot format, asking questions step-by-step to assess what kind care the person might need.

It should be noted that the symptom checker is NOT intended to diagnose, nor will it provide information on testing facilities. It is purely meant to corral users to the type of healthcare they might need to pursue based on their responses.

Bing's COVID-19 Live Map Tracker

Bing rolled out an extensive, interactive Live Map Tracker for cases globally. There are a lot of useful tools, graphs, and statistics here that we can break down.

Hovering over density blobs will display case information in that particular region.

Filtering by region will give you a more detailed view of cases within the region, broken down by county.

Google

Being largely known as an information service, Google has added numerous COVID-19 information portals throughout their search pages.

You can find it first and foremost on their main search portal.

In particular, Google has been promoting “DO THE FIVE” – 5 guidelines to help slow or lesson spread of Coronavirus. These guidelines have been set by the CDC, and further information can be found on their site.

Most of this information will direct the user to Google’s Coronavirus information site. Here, news articles and tweets related to the virus are compiled, including health information for those looking for symptoms, treatments, and preventative measures – at least everything we know to-date.

The map on the right hand side will bring you to a very simplified global case tracking map. Countries and total cases are listed, with hover options on the map.

Not as in-depth as Bing or John Hopkin’s map, but nevertheless a resource for those that only use Google search.

Apple

Surprisingly, Apple has also created a COVID-19 Symptom checker in collaboration with CDC, the White House, and FEMA.

Similar to CDC’s symptom checker, Apple’s is chatbot style, asking you questions step-by-step to determine if your symptoms are aligned with COVID-19.

 You can also get updates on the latest COVID-19 news, learn about preventative techniques, and testing information.

The Symptom chat starts out by making sure you understand the purpose of this tool, and whether you’re looking to check your symptoms or on behalf of someone else.

On completion of the chat, Apple provides a breakdown of the steps you may want to take – and your responses, so you can compare how you answered.

Ultimately, Apple’s Symptom Checker may simply help relieve your anxiety, and give you a game plan in case you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms.

Final Notes

In these unprecedented times, it will be interesting to see how our digital landscape is shaped by these major corporations that have so much impact on our lives. There is no clear way to answer a pandemic of this scale, so we’ll be sure to see much more experimentation in the future in the form of digital responses. 

Stay safe out there, and wash your hands! And, finally, nothing but love and regards to those affected directly by COVID-19.

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