UX Shift: Giving UAE Customers What They Want In 2020...

  • By
    Aditi Kant
    December 30, 2019
    March 2, 2022

2019 has been a good year here at Digital of Things. We had over 400 participants get involved in different forms of user research at our lab in Dubai. Based on that data, we uncovered many useful insights – but one aspect caught our eye – which was that regionally, people are hungry for digitalisation, but the unpleasant & sometimes non-existent user experience drives them to use traditional, more familiar channels like phone calls.

We had the privilege to test with over 50 nationalities living across the UAE, and pick up some great, local insights along the way. It wouldn’t be fair to keep our learnings to ourselves - so we’ve launched the 2020 shift, which features the 10 ways in which UX is evolving here and what we expect to see take off in the region. As we enter the new decade, we bring new technological capabilities, a greater digital understanding and vision for the future. Digital of Things is right at the forefront - helping the digital community better understand what they can bring to the table.

1. Instant gratification

What they want, when they want it (P.S – it’s now)

We are living in a world of instant gratification. As the millennial population in the region grows, we see patience fall and the demand for ‘now’ increase. This generation doesn’t like to wait. If the website or app doesn't show the information that the user is looking for quickly and easily, they will just simply move to another app. Even long-term loyalty programs fail, as users seek instant rewards. What we’ve heard from our testers is that even a 1-hour delivery window is excessive. They want to immediately see the value in a product or service and expect to receive it as soon as possible. In a world where InstaShop, Deliveroo & Uber can all be with us in a matter of minutes, businesses need to keep up, or get left behind. Our research studies have shown that users don’t want to see multiple screens, or be overloaded with information. They reeeaaally don’t want to have to fill in more forms with redundant information. The key takeaway here is to get users to the content they want, and don’t waste time creating beautiful loaders or interstitial pages, cumbersome journeys or long forms.

2. Keep it safe

Privacy is key

As data breaches can happen to any company and leave sensitive data exposed, people are hesitant to store their data anywhere. This creates a culture of skeptics who assume their data can be accessed on any platform, and think twice before saving their credit card details or personal details. With GDPR in effect throughout Europe, data privacy has come to the forefront of how data is handled, stored and if needed how it can be removed. What we’ve seen from most of our testers is that they don’t want to use their social media accounts to log in, for fear their data will be misused. Designers need to rethink 1-click checkouts and default payment methods to incorporate user permission. As part of our data gathering during interviews we found that regionally ‘Cash On Delivery’ is widely used and a popular option, mainly because it’s private and secure. As such, users need to feel like they are in control of the decisions they make online and the data they choose to provide. Designing for privacy to make the user feel safe is now a responsibility for UX designers, along with establishing principles around how data is used to alleviate their concerns.  

3. Sustainability over consumerism

City of bling?

All that glitters is… microplastic? Environmental awareness in the UAE has increased over the years, as sustainability efforts are implemented across the region to help reach the UAE’s goal of becoming a global role model. Dubai has already made steps towards this; Dubai Airports has announced that by 2020 they will go plastic free – banning all single use plastics and finding sustainable alternatives for items such as plastic bottles. Even the Crown Prince has taken part in ocean clean ups to help remove plastic waste build up. From shopping second hand ‘pre-loved’ designs, to ‘opting out’ of plastic cutlery with Deliveroo orders, people are looking for outlets to help cut down their waste. Mobile dark mode is not just a fad, it also saves the battery. We believe 2020 will be all about reducing mindless consumption. As for front-end design, it is important for UX designers to think about and incorporate options to help users reduce, re-use and recycle. End users are more environmentally aware and will happily make choices that positively impact the world around them, if given the opportunity.  

4. Minimalism

Less is always more

The ‘less is more’ movement has always been relevant, even more so in recent times. With an increase in commitments and a decrease in our attention span, users don’t want to see a flood of information at once. In our design labs this year, we have tested e-commerce websites, loyalty programs, property apps and more, and the results are the same across platforms – if there is excessive content it leads to user confusion. As UX designers, we can ensure that users aren’t subjected to ‘information overload’, and use progressive disclosure to help guide users without overloading them. Designers need to streamline the flow of information and only include what’s needed in a clean and clutter free design– nothing more, nothing less.

5. Think global, design local

We are not Emiratis + expats, we are the UAE

The UAE is a unique cultural mix, building its own ethos over time by taking the best from the east and west. As such, the typical ‘lift and shift’ of popular products does not work in this region. For example, when we researched QR codes we learned that regionally, this is not a payment method but is received after payment. However, in China this is the opposite. We also ran tests in our lab where failed translations led to dissatisfied and confused users, and another where unthoughtful imagery in a banner frustrated users instead of enticing them to click. With over 200 nationalities wanting to make the UAE their own, designers need to allow for all options with the ability to filter.  During our studies, we discovered that our users used filters while watching TV to create their own list of channels. We found there was a difference between different nationalities, some were more patient, while others only wanted to see suggestions relevant to their preferences. It is important for designers to understand both the user and their culture to help close the gap between business & user expectations.

6. Inclusive design

Designing for people of determination

In 2016 the term “People of Determination” was introduced to describe people formally referred to as special needs, in order to recognise their achievements in different areas. Since then the UAE has empowered the determined through various services and facilities like the tactile floors at metro stations for the visually disabled, and separate queues at the airport. Digitising these solutions however, has been hard to implement. At present, it seems like only international companies are seeking compliance to operate successfully in the US or UK, along with some government websites that use inclusive designs. As awareness grows, we feel that 2020 will be the year of inclusive designs, starting with simple alternatives like colour contrast for easy reading. We recently had a test participant who was colour blind and couldn’t distinguish between two CTA’s on the screen - which led us to question how future designs could be more inclusive. Watch this space for more tips and tricks to accessible design by Digital of Things, and read more on how to provide accessible web content in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

7. Inspire and influence

We listen, watch and follow

Social media influencers have the power to generate conversation, drive engagement, and set cultural trends. Influencers are early adopters of new products and services, creating a desire to purchase amongst their audience. They still share voucher codes with their followers and promote new products, however recently we are seeing influencers create walkthrough videos of applications and websites - driving others to download & engage. Digital of Things held multiple focus groups this year, and we heard our users say that they highly value influencer opinions, going to restaurants or using apps influencers have suggested. However, just one negative review from a powerful influencer can take its toll on a product or service. Designers need to make sure the final product is delightful to use and further promote, or face negative buzz.

8. Personalisation

There is no such thing as ‘too personalised’

The region is still waiting for the next wave of customer engagement – that being ‘the design solution just for me’ moment. What we’ve heard on repeat this year is how users are happy to log on and receive communication as long as what they get is personalised for them, based on a previous purchase or another customised experience. In our e-commerce studies, we found that users expect their recent purchases and addresses to be stored so they don’t have to enter this information again and again, and they like to access their order history quickly if needed. Through our various studies, we found that users are still skeptical to share their personal data, however they are more likely to share it if they know it will help provide tailored products, services & experiences. Designers can motivate users to provide personal details and promote brand loyalty by providing them tailored offers and deals, as deal hunters are popular in this region.

9. Aggregate and present

One-stop-shop works best

In 2019 we saw how important it was for users to use a single app for multiple purposes. A niche app/website is not preferred. When Kibsons started, they were focused on the farm to home approach for fruits and vegetables only. Today they’ve expanded to include other grocery items knowing that their customers were looking for more than just fruit & veg. Other apps, like InstaShop, let you order groceries, flowers, medicines and even housemaids all from one place. This ‘choice first' mindset is what helped make insurancemarket.ae such a big success, as you can compare multiple companies and costs all in one place. Our users said similar things, and most mentioned they prefer apps that offered immediate delivery and multiple products. We are sure 2020 will push businesses to expand and offer multiple services to the end user.

10. Voice UI

Reach its full potential

A voice user-interface (or VUI) allows users to interact with a system through voice or speech commands. Virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant allow for a hands-free, eyes free way of interaction while the users attention is focused elsewhere. While some regions have moved to using VUI’s daily, regionally we’ve been slow to implement. This could be because English assistants are widely available and Arabic assistants are not - limiting an entire group of users. During our user testing, we found that users wanted to simplify the long insurance request process by providing documents or voice instructions, instead of manually completing forms. If it’s not through voice commands, users want a simple process- even if that’s by thinking it so! As designers, we should ensure that users can explore the full potential of what this technology has to offer and help to support users who multitask.


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