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In doing my research for this piece I’ve read a few other articles and have obviously been watching the news (between Netflix bingeing obviously) but If I hear read the line that we are now in unprecedented times again I’m going to go mental! So don’t worry, this is not going to be that sort of article!

A lot of people are wondering what the future looks like and even if they’ll still have a job at the end of all of this. So I want to focus this article around creativity and how brands are getting around the issues many brands are facing right now.

But it seems everyone’s been using the same copywriter and art director and using the same angle to tell their story on how they’re there for people as this video shows.

So how do you find that angle to set yourself apart? Here are 5 tips on how to be creative during times of crisis.

be creative

1/ Digital is the key

Digital has never been so important as it is right now; with people confined to their homes, they no longer have the freedom to window-shop or for shiny distractions.

It is the job of the digital world to allow people to feel that life is still moving on and that they are still able to communicate with friends and family. However, we can go further and help users feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community and to be able to access products and experiences that are going to allow them to live life as normally as possible whilst in lockdown.

Apps like Zoom, Houseparty and Skype have seem a 100% spike in downloads during this time, only showing people are looking for more and interesting ways to communicate with each other.

If you are wondering what happens post Covid-19 and the lockdown with all these people adopting new tech and now getting to grips with working from home. post the Covid-19 outbreak then take a look at these figures by Macy Bayern for techrepublic.com: The number of Americans participating in remote work has jumped by 159% between 2005 and 2017, the report found.

It’s important to remember that whilst you may be considering developing apps, services and or platforms that people are still operating in their usual channels,, these “playgrounds” e.g. facebook, instagram, twitter can be a great space to communicate with people. Your existing platforms and services can be a great source of knowledge/inspiration to review the data you are accumulating organically e.g. are you receiving more or lets hits to your site than usual? If so what pages and content are people looking at? Let this be your inspiration and don’t be scared to address this feedback on your experience.

2/ Lighten the mood

People are looking for any opportunity right now to smile and to be optimistic about where we’re heading so as a brand how can you do this for people?

There are great examples of individuals offering up their time for a great cause e.g. Joe wicks, Jamie Oliver, David Attenborough and so on but there are also many brands out there that are supporting the cause and offering valuable resources and goods to produce products and services that are in high demand during this time for example McLaren building ventilators and also Dyson following in suite.

It’s things like this that puts a smile on peoples faces and allows you as a brand to be remembered in future as an ethical and positive force.

3/ True purpose

Purpose can make you relevant and show transparency within the brand. This allows consumers and users to see what’s going on under the surface but also to understand if you are the right brand for them; the type of brand that they want to associate themselves with.

As a brand, finding your purpose in the world is very important. This helps your audience to understand who you really are. Are you a brand wanting to provide support on a personal level, a community level or even a planet level? Once you’ve chosen your area, what space are you now looking to operate in? If personal support is your area, what are going to do for people? Are you looking at mental health, NHS funding or lobbying for something with the government and so on?

If you have already chosen your area of purpose, NOW is the time to show your customer base, your community and the rest of the world what you are doing.
Don’t forget that there are 2 ways to show your purpose:

  • Inside out – Show people what you are doing internally to solve a problem e.g. show your innovation lab developing inspiring way to use and reuse sustainable materials, show female leaders in your company inspiring other young women etc etc.
    Budweiser has committed to changing their whole brewing and bottling process to 100% sustainable energy by 2025. What commitments can you make?
  • Outside in – Show people sustainable business around the world you are working with, show the effects your brand has on others, reveal stories people can watch/listen to and be inspired by the lengths you are going to reveal a new insight.
    Patagonia do a lovely job of this through their stories that they create.

4/ Be relevant

Engage with things people are doing during this period, then find ways to bring your brand into the forefront of their minds and make you relevant. Tap into a trend, a way of thinking, a meme or a subculture that your brand can reflect and be a part of. Now own it!

As people are spending more time at home than ever before, are you a brand that can tap into TV, cooking, kids education, home exercise, working from home solutions and so on.

Watch and listen to users to understand the changes people are going through. Reflect this in the brand communications.

More often than not if you are experiencing an issue, an inspirational idea or even just find something funny… no doubt others will identify with it. Be relevant but be useful.

Nike’s latest campaign ‘Play for the world’ is a great example of a brand tapping into a problem people are facing and embracing it. They are showing that they are listening but also helping in the form of Nike’s youtube channel that is now focussed around home workouts.

But this doesn’t have to be a big campaign with a TV and platform, this can be:

  • Simple tweaks to your current website based on user data
  • An alert that informs a user as to what action is needed based on current climate.
  • Changing the order of your content to support your users better during this time e.g. recipes for quick a easy kids foods whilst they are home, pulling kids activities to the top

5/ Go big or go home

If you were planning to pivot the company, change direction or make yourself leaner for a transformation, now is the time!
Innovation during challenging times can help you solve a wicked problem, or a way to target your audience better, or a new product, service that can turn you and your company from being a player to a leader in the industry.

There’s a great article in Forbes by Mike Maddock that I think unpacks why businesses should invest in innovation and creativity and not ditch it right now.

Mike Maddock says “The goal is to differentiate your product or service offering in a simple way. For example, for many banks, the last recession became the moment to (finally) respond to their customer’s desire for a simple, online banking solution.”

Passion led us here

People are looking for brands that are there for them, understand the problems the world is facing and support them on this crazy journey we are all on right now. If there were any brands that were telling people that they were a purpose driven brand before this pandemic then now’s the time to show your worth and try to tap into the positives of this situation e.g. can you tap into the great environmental impact this is having, the fact people are getting more me time, more family time than ever before and the value of human connections and the kind of support networks that are being created around topics and areas of concern.

This period now is a time to be bold and take this challenge we are all facing head on! If you were finding it hard to stand out in the sea of existing brands before then use this time as an opportunity to reconnect with your users, to do some good in the world and use your brand and it’s platforms to really stand out.

Covid-19: How can collaboration be maintained and enhanced despite social distancing?

Surviving a pandemic, social distancing, containment, flattening the curve, FFP2 vs N95 masks … The last few days have seen the emergence of new words and concepts that are often anxiety-provoking, but above all synonymous with change. Both in our private and professional lives. Remote working where possible has become the norm, children are at […]

Lire la suite de Covid-19: How can collaboration be maintained and enhanced despite social distancing?

Very few things on the internet have survived in their original form since its conception. Passwords are one of them.

Nobody likes passwords. We have learned to tolerate them as a ‘necessary inconvenience’ of the digital age and having to remember, type, forget or share our passwords with people is a price to pay for online security. But it shouldn’t necessarily be that way.

After nearly 30 years of existence in mainstream digital culture, research data and human experience demonstrate how badly passwords perform as a design solution. From a purely human usability perspective, passwords have become a frustrating, ineffective and unsophisticated method for accessing and protecting digital space. It’s time to free people from this burden. This is why:

1. Too many passwords in our lives

forget-your-passwords

Passwords (like phone numbers) were a practical idea when you had to remember a few of them. Today, a personal email address is associated with an average of 130 accounts, not to mention offline objects for which we have to remember secret codes (from devices and credit cards to digital door locks). These numbers have been growing as the internet, and technology in general, have become ever more present in our lives.

As with phone numbers, we quickly reached the point where it is impossible to manage this amount of information without the need for external help. Hence browsers than remember your passwords for you, the “remember me” and ‘I forgot my password” buttons and Password Managers. The very existence of the Password Manager market is a symptom of the problem while also being a solution for it. But the idea of storing all of your passwords in one basket protected by… a password (and having to pay for an app to remember things for you) is absurd. The question that needs to be asked is: do we really need so many passwords?

passwords-managers-pcmag

The human response to the problem of having hundreds of accounts is to use the same password for everything even though it goes against security best practices and guidelines. In fact, according to a survey by PasswordBoss, a staggering 59% of users reuse the same password. When companies became aware of this problem, they started imposing password strength constraints, forcing people to deal with multiple passwords, which takes us to the next problem.

2. People can’t come up with good passwords

Back in 2007, a large scale study by Microsoft on web password habits simply concluded that people have weak passwords and that they forget them, both of which are problems related to human cognitive abilities and not to technology.

An analysis by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on breached accounts found that “123456” and “123456789” were the most widely-used password while others in the top five included “qwerty”, “password” and 1111111. Obviously, these passwords are easily guessable by low-tech algorithms and hackers don’t need to make much effort to break into the majority of accounts. You can take a look at the list of breached passwords for yourself.

Coming up with strong passwords is not an easy task, considering that passwords are usually defined while the user is trying to do something else, like signing up to make a payment. This explains why people prefer to go with their usual, familiar passwords instead of making the effort of coming up with strong ones. Password managers allow users to create completely random and meaningless passwords and remember them for you; the price (and the strategy) is user dependence on the tool and losing control over your passwords. You have little choice anyway.

passwords-generator

As the extensive PEW report on internet security found out, just 7% of people use Password Managers. For everyone else, password strength constraints have proven ineffective as hacking techniques become more sophisticated and outperform human imagination in coming up with enigmatic strings of characters. Making passwords complicated and hard to remember doesn’t work for people, which is why the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) now recommends that complexity requirements and periodic password changes no longer be forced on users.

3. People manage passwords badly

As Don Norman explains in his work (Living with Complexity, The Design of Everyday Things) one common solution for dealing with the limits of human memory is to put information in the world to use the world as information when we need it. This is especially applied to information that is needed in precise contexts, like road signs, exit signs, sticky notes, to-do lists, instructions on products, manuals, etc.

Putting your password in the world is the antithesis of security; nevertheless, according to this PEW report, against all security rational, 49% of American users write down their passwords to keep track of them. One-quarter (24%) of online adults keep track of their passwords in a digital note or document on one of their devices.

This is not human carelessness but rather a sign that a solution has become a problem for users.

4. Passwords are anachronistic for today’s digital habits

If we look at how people use the internet today (considering desktop and mobile usage patterns), it seems that password-protected authentication is stuck in the 90s:

  • Passwords were also useful when most people accessed the internet from public spaces and shared computers at home. In those situations, logging in and out was a frequent and acceptable task. Today, most usage is on personal devices that are or can be protected by passwords.
  • Mobile usage has surpassed desktop usage since 2016. In real life, once the user as unblocked their mobile device, they have access to apps and functions without the need for additional in-app authentication. Smartphones basically perform as password managers. Some apps even keep you authenticated even after you delete them.
  • Very few online services are used regularly: A study found that on smartphones, people use only 5 apps regularly. On desktop computers, people usually stay signed in on the websites they use regularly. Authentication happens in rare cases like when one uses a different device, changes browsers or deliberately logs out of a service.
  • Most online services are used infrequently and user accounts are dormant. You are usually asked to insert your password for these services but since you use them rarely, you tend to forget them.

All this means that people engage in the authentication process at a decreasing rate. In other words, we are typing our passwords less often, giving us fewer reasons to remember them.

Alternative solutions

We cannot get rid of passwords completely in the near future because of the scale of their usage and the technical effort needed to make the transition to alternative solutions. I doubt that user habit and adoption might be an issue because nobody will miss their passwords if a better solution is offered instead.

Here are 4 alternatives:

1. Email login

Email login is probably the easiest and most efficient alternative to passwords (and surprisingly underused). It replaces passwords by using a time-limited token sent by email to the user. Everybody has an email account and we rarely change or delete it. Email is already used as the middleman to confirm signup, recover forgotten passwords and for extra security steps. Why not just make it the default login method?
Email login is universally applicable and requires no special technology, but it is especially suitable for services that are used infrequently (which are, as explained above, the majority of services). In practice, it delegates security to the user’s email service.

medium

Medium was one of the first websites that introduced password-free login in 2015 but few major companies have followed that path. Amazon uses single-use sign-in codes sent to users when they have difficulty accessing their account.

2. Single Sign-on (SSO)

SSO is another way of getting rid of multiple passwords within a fragmented and disparate ecosystem by enabling users to access multiple services using a single account (the same way a Google account or Apple ID give users access to all services on their respective platforms). If combined with email login, it can solve the problem of having multiple accounts and passwords at the same time.

SSO is widely implemented in companies but it is also possible to use it for non-professional use: the French government has implemented a mechanism called ‘France Connect’ which allows french residents to access almost all government services with their social security number and a single password. (Note that the government cannot suppose that every user has an email address so email login cannot be forced.)

password-free-authentication

Third-party authentication (also known as social login) is similar to SSO by using data from another account in order to give access to a service. But some users might be reluctant to use this option for privacy issues regarding third-parties gaining access to their data, as once happened with Facebook. The choice of eligible parties is also limited and not everyone uses the accounts allowing this functionality. Another problem with this method is that the user becomes dependent on the third-party account: should they wish to delete it, they might lose access and data associated with other services.

3. Physiological Biometrics: Fingerprint, Face Recognition, Voice

Biometrics have gained a lot of attention and popularity in the last few years in mobile devices, but their application in web interfaces and software lags behind.

touch-id

Apple first put Touch ID on the iPhone 5s in 2013; since then, many other tech giants have followed suit. Today, they’re basically a given feature on flagship smartphones. Face Recognition is rising in popularity thanks to the proliferation of cameras in digital devices and selfie culture. Apple boldly replaced Touch ID with Face ID since iPhone X. In 2017, Master Card rolled out “selfie payments” in Europe, a feature that identifies a user by face recognition in order to authorize payments. Other companies experiment with voice. In 2016, several banks such as HSBC and Barclay’s introduced voice recognition technology to identify their customers.

face-id-presentation

Biometrics rely on hardware capabilities and are a good choice for systems that are accessed through specific devices but fallback methods should be provided in case the user does not have access to the appropriate hardware.

Biometrics might easy to use but they have a fundamental flaw compared to passwords: if you’re captured by criminals or taken into the custody of law enforcement, they can unlock your phone by holding it up to your face. Technology is not yet smart enough to understand the difference between a real unlock attempt and a forced one and I doubt that there is a solution for it. Apple has recognized this flaw and has made it possible to disable Face ID and Touch ID.

4. Physical keys

For high-risk operations, high-security environments or sensitive users (like system administrators) we can use physical security keys such as Google’s Titan or Yubiko’s YubiKeys. Today, security keys are mostly used for 2-factor authentication in combination with passwords but technically they can replace them.

googles-titan

Accessibility

Most of the research and data used in this article were done on American users and my analysis applies to technologically-advanced contexts. There are still places in the world where people use the internet through public internet cafés, schools, universities and public libraries. Not everyone has a personal laptop and some families might share one computer. Most people in the world cannot afford expensive smartphones with the latest generation of fingerprint readers. Considering these situations, I believe email login is the best alternative to passwords for daily, non-critical usage.

Conclusion

People are bad at creating strong passwords, forget them and are coming up with desperate solutions for managing the unmanageable while the concept of passwords itself is becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s technological context.

I am not suggesting that we should create a password-free world but I believe we should limit their usage; passwords are necessary in a few cases, for example when the access key to a system should only be stored in the user’s mind. But for ordinary, uncritical every-day use, this is not the case. Instead of making passwords the default way of protecting user accounts, we can easily replace them with better, already existing solutions without compromising security. Life is too short to spend it on trying to remember if you used an S or a $ in «mYd0g$!3d!».


This article was originally published on UX Planet