UX Shift: Adapting to the Changing Environment in 2021

  • By
    Aditi Kant
    December 31, 2020
    March 2, 2022

When the year 2020 began, it was looking like a promising year for digital growth. We never anticipated that it will be a year of digital boom.

Change is the only constant.

In the first quarter of the year, an ‘unprecedented’ situation hit us. Pardon the use of the most abused word of 2020.

The global crisis brought on by COVID led to rapid digital growth in the region too. It showed the gaping holes that we had in the digital landscape and the inconsistencies in the overall consumer experience we were not yet prepared for.

This was a wake-up call for many to either move to digital space or to improve their digital presence. It was clear from the project requests we received over the last 3 quarters. Most clients needed UX/UI support to improve user-centricity and give their customers a ‘delightful’ digital experience.

While  accelerated digitalisation is good news, it brings with it a lot of challenges. We have analysed the key trends that took place in the region and in this article, we will look at the shifting focus and also the challenges it brought. We hope 2021 sees us resolve these challenges and further improve the UX situation in this rapid digitalisation mode that we all have gotten into.

Online is the way forward.

Online shopping and booking is not everyone’s cup of tea. The lockdown and the times thereafter pushed customers to online channels. Online content consumption went up substantially. Early adapters are now not the only ones performing their day to day tasks online like paying bills, ordering groceries, shopping. Parents who were not digitally savvy are learning their way through tools recommended for home learning.

Online grocery delivery app Instashop saw the number of orders it was handling double within the first few weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the start-up's founding partner.

SOURCE: Arabian Business

As the  audience is changing, so are businesses. Most businesses this year wanted to have or improve their online presence. We designed and developed apps & websites that could replace the human interaction completely even on the site. One of the latest projects was a website & app redesign for Global Village. They have a 25th season celebration in place which cannot be washed away due to the ‘unprecedented’. So we helped them redesign the website and app with a simple aim to better manage the crowd at the site, reduce contact with staff and ensure ticket sales are completed online.
In general, we also observed in the region how retailers got creative with ways of delivery. Carrefour started a Click & Collect service, an option to order online or through the app and then collect the order from store. Deliveroo offered contactless delivery for food and VOX cinemas introduced the region’s first drive-in movie experience.

New tech became mainstream.

It was but natural for businesses to include ‘new tech’ like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) or Artificial Intelligence (AI) on their online platforms to up their games. This year though it was not for mere gimmicks. With one of our client we saw the use of AR and VR to sell products for home improvements online. Such products were always bought in store after seeing and feeling them. With education moving to online, VR took a centrestage too.

According to research, all the factors are now in place for VR and AR to deliver on their incredible promise. In the UAE alone, these technologies could contribute over $4 billion to the local economy by 2030, equivalent to 1% of GDP.


Localise and personalise.

The key differentiator for business is personalisation. Users stay loyal if they get tailor-made solution to suit their needs. Our clients went all out to gather user information at opportune moments, offer services that are most appropriate for the moment of the customer journey for that customer. E.g. based on the custom profile, the information surfaced changed, promoted activities changed. We designed location-based, segment-based and customer journey-based personalisation solutions. Of course this goes hand-in-hand with the new tech we mentioned above. AI and machine learning helped business create ‘smarter’ solutions.

In 2020, the overwhelming majority (97%) report a measurable lift from their personalization efforts, up to 7 percentage points from last year. More than half (58%) experience a lift of more than 10%, while 14% report a lift of over 30%. This success is translating to continued support and investment.

SOURCE: Evergage

Careem brought the Uber model and Dubizzle brought the Craiglist model to the region. They were successful and in the population that majorly comprise of expats, customer base was not difficult to make. This year we saw two other global concepts of paying in instalments and of buying lottery go live in the region. They were well localised for the laws applicable but suited the expectations of the well-travelled customers.

Not niche anymore.

Gone are the days when designers and business focused on a problem to solve. This year has seen a rather big surge in uptake of super apps or apps that could do many many tasks.

We ourselves engaged with two clients building these cover-all, do-all, super apps. It gave us an opportunity to study the international markets and regional. Talabat and Careem win the race here. They have reliable brands to leverage on. We may be a bit far from achieving what WeChat did in the China market but who knows if 2021 is the year of change for us.

One of the two key requirements is to have a customer base with high rate of mobile usage and UAE definitely has a mobile-first approach. Secondly, for a super app to be successful, the users have to interact with it repeatedly, nearly daily and with the ‘unprecedented’, as we spoke earlier, everything and everyone has gone digital.

Consumers may not be specifically demanding super apps, but they certainly want the convenience and simplicity that super apps can offer.


Health is wealth.

Cliched as it may sound but if anything 2020 has taught us the value of good health and well being. Online platforms played a grand role in giving users to opportunities to maintain good physical and mental health. If lockdowns were restricting people, digital platforms were bringing them closer. There were many community-based apps that floated and those already existing saw a bigger momentum.

With two of our clients, we built apps that offer health and fitness solutions at users’ finger tips with variety in mind and low cost being the most critical requirement. We also researched about community building online and understood how many of us engaged in such interactions even more in these times.

Since there is a huge amount of user data being captured through mobile and wearables, it is analysed by AI to give our personalised health solutions.

User engagement with online communities has been growing steadily over the past few years, increasing from 72% in 2017 to 76% in 2019 according to Grazitti Interactive.


Apart from spending so much time online, people spent a lot of time at home. Wellbeing at home became important. We saw an upsurge in furniture sale as people wanted to make their homes even more comfortable. It was not a nest to sleep in at night. Homes became schools & offices too. This drive in the lifestyle change is visible in the increase in sales of furniture, not to mention online.


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