Guiding users through Covid disruption

COVID-19 significantly disrupted UK exams. Cancellations, teacher-assessed grades, and government standardization challenges led to a complex situation. The following year, advanced information was provided to teachers to guide student preparation. Our UX challenge was to communicate these dynamic changes in a clear and timely manner, aiding teachers navigating the return to exams. By applying content design best practices, we ensured effective and efficient information delivery.

Guiding users through Covid disruption


The global COVID-19 pandemic necessitated significant changes to educational assessment practices across our product portfolio. We urgently needed a clear and consistent way to communicate these changes to educators, administrators, and students. The existing website structure and content presented difficulties in


A seamless, centralized source of information empowering educators, administrators, and students to navigate COVID-19's impact on assessments across our entire product suite. Clear, concise communication will ensure well-informed decision-making and foster a sense of confidence during this period of educational disruption.


User experience design and user researcher

Adapting to remote working in the pandemic with my new colleague 'Kip' — Farnham

Understanding user needs

The first step involved understanding user needs. We created detailed user journeys for educators, administrators, and students. This helped us empathize with their challenges and identify pain points related to finding information about assessment changes. Recognizing the anxiety surrounding educational disruptions during the pandemic, we prioritized a user-friendly design that minimized stress and empowered users with accurate information.

Designing the site section

Inspired by the BBC's approach to live feeds, we designed a new, dedicated website section to centralize all COVID-related assessment information. This ensured a single source of truth for users, eliminating confusion caused by scattered updates. To ensure consistency across our products, we designed a flexible template for presenting updates. This template facilitated easy comparison between products and a unified voice throughout the communication.

Mobile-first approach to a new site section to communicate ongoing covid impact
Sketched lo-fi design of the chosen approach

Validating assumptions

We conducted a design sprint to present the proposed solution to leadership. This intensive collaboration included rapid prototyping and user testing, allowing us to refine the concept based on user feedback. During the sprint, we emphasized how the design prioritized user needs for clear communication, empathy, and easy information access during a time of significant change.

Implementing the solution

The final design was built to be flexible and scalable. The template-based approach allowed for easy updates on specific product assessment changes, while the centralized location on the website ensured users could readily find the information they needed, regardless of the platform or product they were using. Collaboration with content strategists ensured accurate, timely information that resonated with the audience. Empathy and clarity were key focuses for content creation, aiming to provide users with a sense of control and understanding amidst ongoing educational disruption.

A user-flow diagram detailing the complex information architecture


User feedback confirmed the new website section and content significantly enhanced their ability to find and understand assessment updates. The clear and consistent communication helped educators, administrators, and students navigate the changes with greater confidence and a sense of control. The flexible design allows for easy updates and adaptations to future communication needs, ensuring continued clarity and effectiveness.

Landing page for pandemic impact on assessment

Lessons learned

#1 Adapting Quickly with Design Sprints — The case study highlights the effectiveness of design sprints. This rapid, collaborative approach allowed the team to quickly understand user needs, develop prototypes, and gather feedback. This enabled them to adapt their solution iteratively, leading to a more effective final product.

#2 Failing Fast and Learning Early — The design sprint format encourages "failing fast" by testing prototypes early and often. This allows for quick identification of issues, minimizing wasted time and resources. By embracing these "failures" as learning opportunities, the team was able to refine their solution and achieve a superior outcome.

#3 Directional Research Guides Efficient Solutions — The case study emphasizes the importance of directional research, such as user journey mapping. By gaining a deep understanding of user needs and pain points, the team was able to focus their efforts on developing a solution that directly addressed the challenges users were facing. This targeted approach led to a more efficient and effective design process.

#4 Empathy is Key During Difficult Times The case study underscores the importance of user empathy, especially when users are facing a challenging situation like a pandemic. Recognizing the anxiety surrounding educational disruption, the team prioritized a user-friendly design that minimized stress and provided users with clear and reliable information. This empathetic approach fostered trust and empowered users during a time of uncertainty.

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