44 Digital Blog Troubleshooting: digital lessons learned

There are lots of ways to deliver digital projects, so why not learn from others’ mistakes? Here are three recent examples of what not to do, and the digital lessons learned along the way.

2020 has been a big year for digital. Organisations that previously had little-to-no need for digital solutions are turning to them to help navigate the changes we’re facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, few solutions are perfect. While digital platforms can offer many useful capabilities, they’re not immune to human error and unanticipated obstacles.

Here are three examples of faults with recent public-facing digital projects and developments, and lessons that we, as communicators, can take from them.

A 49-mile marathon? Learn your limits

How would you organise a live event with more than 40,000 athletes while following social distancing measures? Virgin Money London Marathon’s response to the Covid-19 crisis was to make its 2020 event virtual. For the first time in the event’s 39-year history, participants who signed up for the 2020 event were invited to take part from anywhere across the globe. They had 24 hours to complete a marathon on a route of their choice, tracking their progress on the official London Marathon GPS app.

This solution helped to curb the disappointment of runners who had put in months of training in preparation for the event. However, it was not without its problems. Some participants had a shock when they discovered that the GPS tracking capability of the app wasn’t accurate. One athlete found that instead of 26.2 miles, she had covered 49 before the app registered her challenge as complete!

Digital lessons learned
Stress-testing a new digital platform or app before launch is vital as it gives us confidence that it’ll be suitable for its intended purpose. It also gives us time to fix any glitches and bugs that we find.

If you spot any limitations of your platform that you can’t solve, build this into your comms plan in the run-up to your launch. Let your audience know where they can go for support if they encounter any issues. For the London Marathon, this meant allowing participants to retrospectively send in their own GPS recordings from secondary devices.

A ghost in the machine: phantom messages

The NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app is an enormous digital project that has launched in recent months. With millions of users across the country relying on it to alert them to their potential exposure to the virus, making sure the app’s messaging and advice is correct is extremely important.

One key issue that has arisen from the app is a glitch which alerts some users with a ‘phantom’ warning notification that they may have had contact with the virus, before disappearing. The glitch was addressed with a recent software update, which sends a second message telling users to ignore the first, but not before many users were left concerned and confused by the initial messages.

Digital lessons learned
While this issue was down to a specific technical fault, the response of the recipients of these false messages reinforces an important lesson about sharing inaccurate crisis communications through digital channels and platforms. Conflicting information is always frustrating, but it can be even more upsetting and stressful during this period of uncertainty.

We should always make sure to handle important communications timely and sensitively and, where relevant, ensure that our messaging is consistent across multiple channels. Push notifications can be a powerful tool to increase audience engagement with important updates, but should be used sparingly.

QA your QR codes. A dress rehearsal

The challenges of increased social distancing measures have led to many organisations and businesses introducing new digital solutions to help people to stay safe. Many restaurants and cafés have replaced their print menus with digital copies, which can be accessed by scanning QR codes. Additionally, guests at most venues are now required to scan a QR code to provide their contact-tracing details.

In the past few weeks, I’ve come across three different QR code sheets that have been impossible to scan – because they’ve been put against a busy background, placed behind textured glass or have been damaged. These incidents were only minor annoyances, but it got me thinking about the importance of user-testing to make sure that any new processes are as simple as possible for the end-user.

Digital lessons learned
Now is the perfect time to explore new digital channels and ways of reaching your audiences. But if you’re not familiar with a new system, it pays to take the time to do your research, invest in strong user-testing, and make sure that your audience and colleagues are confident using the platform. Inviting feedback and making it as easy as possible for people to do so will help your launch run smoothly.

If you’d like to find out more about our digital solutions, get in touch.