As the world and business adjust to a new normal, it's more important than ever to stay close to your customers. We are here to help you align your experience, adapt research and innovation methods, and deliver strategic design for a new context.



Many of us are suddenly working in a complex and unfamiliar landscape brought on by COVID-19. Throughout the industry we are hearing from teams that parts of their toolkits and methodologies have become obsolete in this new operating context. However many design tools and methods remain extremely relevant and will be of significant help. We've collated the following principles to help teams navigate the new normal.

It's intended as a quick read guide.

If you would like to discuss any of these principles in more detail, or better understand how to apply any principle to your organisation, please get in touch.


  • Trying to address new customer needs and expectations.
  • Having to respond quickly by launching rapid response products and services.
  • Shoring-up strained processes breaking under increased pressure.

Don't make decisions in the dark

Everyone is in a phase of rapid response. Action is required, and in-depth analysis is a luxury few can afford. But just because you're short on time, doesn't mean you should abandon all insight.

By employing rapid research tools and techniques (such as micro surveys, remote customer panels or analysis of internal data sources - call logs and complaints) you can spearhead effective, 'quick and dirty' design research.

It makes sure decisions aren't made in the dark, and helps in mitigating unintended consequences to your customer experience.

We've collated a guide to remote user testing to help you get started.

Test once, fix once

We've seen several 'response products' and services launched quickly, but with little to no user testing.

For many, testing might not feel like a priority right now. But past experience has shown that poorly tested products have a habit of swamping teams, as they spend the next few weeks and months working on unstructured debugging of new releases.

If you are pushing for speed, try creating headroom for some lean user testing. Even a day or two can make a massive difference by prioritising and reducing the collective workload, identifying the root causes of new issues, and ensuring broken journeys don't put avoidable pressure on other channels.

Design - and redesign - with empathy

It is a difficult time for everyone at the moment. Relationships, careers, personal finances and health are all affected by the current crisis.

Building empathy into all we design has never been critical. Now is the time to check automated customer messaging or bereavement services that could be considered insensitive, or even review your billing structure to reflect the situations your customers are in. It's also essential to test your tone of voice on new journeys to ensure they are suitable.

Have a look at our notes on empathy in automation to find out more.


  • Struggling to achieve the same outputs with a distributed team.
  • Having to build specialised capabilities in-house rather than using external partners.
  • Seeing signs of growing disengagement, burnout, or coaching challenges.

Be deliberately human

It's easy to focus purely on the toolsets that enable remote working and collaboration, particularly when they don't work quite as expected. However, we've found it is your team's mindset that moves the needle when working remotely.

Great teams are built on trust. Trust enables stronger human connections and - ultimately - the collaborative effort which delivers great outcomes. You can find out more about the model we use to great mindsets here.

Find skills support

In the short term, teams are likely to have to deliver work that you may have previously relied on external partners to own. This might include work internal teams may have little practical experience in leading or rely heavily on small pockets of internal expertise to deliver effectively. Assessing your current teams' capabilities and capacity is essential to keeping strategic initiatives and tactical responses moving, as well as highlighting what skills you may need in a post-COVID world.

If a distributed team is to be effective, a shared framework and individual self-sufficiency are essential. We've been delivering targeted training sessions to help teams become reliably self-sufficient in specific design skills.

An alternative model which is also extremely effective is remote on-project coaching, this de-risks delivery on more complex work streams and upskills at the same time.


  • Unsure of the lasting impact COVID-19 will have on your customers.
  • Not sure if your proposition will still be relevant post-COVID-19.
  • Trying to work out what is next for your business model.

Discover your ‘new’ customers

Discover your 'new' customers – We will all emerge on the other side of this global crisis slightly changed. We will have developed new behaviours, values and needs, and so will your existing customers. Engaging your current customers will prove essential to understanding which behaviours and needs are passing trends compared to those that are a long term change that require you to respond in the products and services you offer.

Take stock of your offer

Resources are likely to be tight for a while and continuing to deliver features, products and services that aren't providing any value can prove hugely draining. Reviewing your proposition portfolio, feature sets and roadmaps against new customer expectations is essential to ensuring you don't continue to run or deliver things that no-one cares about anymore.

Take the blinkers off

We are in a time of focus and urgency, but this will eventually end. Those who have considered what happens next and move fastest will gain a head start in the post-COVID world. At Nile we have been using our Foresight Toolkit to map out potential futures and opportunities in response to the impact of this global crisis. Not to predict the future, but to help steer towards preferable futures that benefit business, customers and society.


There are no perfect design solutions or silver bullets, but there are methods and ways of working to move quickly and confidently when confronting the uncertain.

We have been working with clients remotely with distributed teams for the last two years and are committed to support those adopting these as new ways of working. This includes remote versions of all design research activities and segmenting larger projects into self-contained outcome-oriented sprints to make things a little more manageable.

If we can support you to apply any of the techniques mentioned here or you’d simply like to bounce ideas around, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch.

Luke McKinney

Sarah Ronald

Kirsty Bell

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