UX Highlights 2021
When the world changed back in 2020, there was a shift in focus for a lot of us. Things that brought us so much stress and worry no longer mattered in the grand scheme of things, and it was more about using our time to learn new skills, find new hobbies and rediscover that childlike joy of our favourite things. Since a lot of our time is still spent inside nowadays, we think it’s fair to say that a lot of us have had to rely on products to stimulate our brains in order to replace the usual rush of work, travel, and life in general. So, we asked our team to think of one thing that had a UX that made their life just a little bit easier, better, or brighter this year. We didn’t limit it to digital products, nor apps or websites, we wanted them to pick whatever they wanted, and explain why they named it as one of their 2021 UX Highlights.
Tyrell’s UX Highlight was Discord, a free group chat software that makes it easy to talk, video chat and text with your friends and community. Users can create themed channels, enter voice-message chats, or organise a community where members get special powers. Originally, it was created to facilitate for gamers to connect whilst playing together, but it has now become a widely used service for those looking to just chat in general!
Tyrells specifically mentions the high quality of the video chat (1080p HD), and how users can screen share with the sound included, as well as play music directly for all to hear, making the shared experience of Discord an effortless process. The software also allows users to jump into friends’ games or easily stream their own games, as well as integrate with other apps, such as Spotify, Steam, PlayStation and Xbox. On top of this, Discord has a very friendly community. All of this added together gives Discord a well-deserved spot on our 2021 UX Highlights list!
Lisa: Spotify’s Sleep Timer
Spotify, a music giant in their own right, are constantly changing and evolving their app to improve the listener experience. For example, they recently added a lyric feature that makes singing-along and understanding a song easier for their users, as well as removing the automatic shuffle/play button on albums after feedback from Adele. However, the feature that stood out most to Lisa this year was in fact the Sleep Timer. This allows the user to set a timer for when they want the music to stop, allowing them to fall asleep and not be awoken in the middle of the night by the music playing.
The sleep timer is easy to find when listening to a song and the user can choose to stop the audio anytime between five minutes to an hour.
Chris: All That Falafel
Chris’ choice for 2021 UX Highlights was an obvious one: All That Falafel – the Falafel stand by London Bridge. This stand, he says, has exceptional service and even gives away free falafels for customers waiting in the queue! Chris mentions that they have a simple menu, where customers can choose between a medium or large wrap or a salad box, making the choice easy for customers. They accept card payments and send email receipts, thus further facilitating for the customer.
All That Falafel even has an app based loyalty scheme, called Embargo. It’s easy to use, the customer just has to scan a QR code to download it, sign up and then scan at a tap point to gain a virtual stamp on your card. Eight stamps on your card gets you a free falafel! This lunch spot was an obvious choice with great food, great service and an app that lets you keep track of your loyalty card.
Emilia: PlayStation 5
Emilia’s personal pick had to go to her PlayStation 5. A keen gamer, the different nuances that came with the console really impressed her and added to the overall experience of playing various games. During set up, there are QR codes that pop up during loading screens so that users can get a headstart when it comes to logging in and setting their preferences by using the PlayStation app whilst they wait. As well as this, the controller was also a standout part of the experience. With subtle vibration and ability to add resistance to the triggers, it helped create a more immersive experience. For example, in one game, she mentions how the controller would vibrate slightly as rain fell on the characters umbrella, simulating the feeling of the impact of the raindrops. It’s small things like this that can take a user’s experience to the next level, making it easier to imagine themselves within the situation they see on the screen.
The actual games were also something Emillia mentions as adding to her decision to name her PlayStation 5 as a 2021 UX Highlight. She mentions how the option to view game progress by mission/area in the game made it easier for players who want to complete the entire game to see what they’ve missed. As well as this, some games also had support for hints, where they could view video hints of the things they’ve missed so as to help get the most out of their gaming experience – and collect all the trophies!
Hayley’s choice had to be TooGoodToGo. This is an app that aims to cut down food waste all across the world, by selling ‘magic bags’ full of produce that a restaurant, cafe, or bakery hasn’t been able to sell that day. Hayley mentions how one of the best parts about the app (excluding the cutting down on food wastage) is that it gives you an opportunity to try out restaurants you wouldn’t normally order/take out from. This, mixed with the fact that everything within the bag is a surprise, means that you open your options up way more than you ever would have before. Instead of reading the menu in great detail five times over, you just choose the restaurant and take what you’re given, a rare thing in a world of so much choice.
The app itself, she says, is easy to use. It allows you to set ‘recommendations’ where you manage preferences, such as allergies, collection times, filtering out the shops with no food left. This idea of simplicity ties together with the overall mission of the app – giving a very real problem like food waste such a simple solution, to sell the food you don’t sell for a discounted price. The UI is straightforward in order for people of all ages and backgrounds to be able to use it. Overall, it’s a great app with a great purpose, and we can see why it’s one of Hayley’s 2021 UX Highlights!
Sam’s pick for her 2021 UX Highlight is Ecosia, a different kind of search engine that cares for the planet and its people. They use daily habits for a good cause and let user’s searches finance tree planting to restore and protect the planet. Sam mentions how she really likes that Ecosia uses visualisation to motivate and engage the users. They are able to see a little badge with a tree icon and a number in order to visualise the number of searches they’ve done, which eventually add to how many trees you’ve helped to plant. Another great thing with Ecosia, as Sam tells us, is that they are transparent and disclose their monthly income and financial reports to reassure users of the money going to restore the planet.
They also make sure to engage users by presenting case studies, visuals and a specific tone of voice to tell stories of their values, making them stand out from other search engines. We can see why they stood out to Sam as one of her 2021 UX Highlights!!
It’s clear that 2021 was a year of great user experiences for different reasons, whether it helped you immerse yourself in a digital world, speak with friends you haven’t been able to meet, or even just helped you buy Falafel. A good user experience is not restricted to just digital products, it’s a part of everything we use, and it can decide whether or not we go back to a product/service/platform to use again. We look forward to seeing what 2022 brings, and what user experiences lie ahead for the UX Connections team.
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