Wicked Problems: Tackling the cross-border spread during COVID-19

Alex In The Dam
7 min readAug 18, 2020

This article is co-written by Alex In The Dam, Alice and Andasha

Are you a UX/UI Designer or a problem solver?

There are no problems, only challenges. Ironhack wanted to test how creatively we would take on this challenge:

“How Might We limit the spread of Covid-19 and contain hot-spots successfully, while allowing for responsible international travel and economic regrowth?”

It is the second project in Ironhack’s UX/UI Bootcamp. Fortunately it was a team assignment, after all…. it is not a small problem to solve. There is also little reference material with COVID-19 being new to everyone, so we had to be creative. The question was especially difficult to solve as there are three parts to it:

  1. containing hot-spots successfully
  2. allowing for responsible travel
  3. allowing for economic regrowth

Team Sneezy (each team had to come up with a name related to infectious diseases and we wanted to keep it light) unleashed the design thinking method on the problem. Keep reading to find out if we’ve become real problem solvers in the past weeks 🤓

Inspiration for team name

Our approach in a nutshell

Empathize → Define → Ideate → Prototype → Test → Learning…and of course using more and more tools along the way to help us with each stage 😉

Empathizing with who?

We were able to draw the following conclusions from our quantitative research which collected 91 responses using google forms:

Most respondents were between 26 and 35 years old and almost 80% of this group will travel in the next 6 months, with the purpose of their trip being vacation. Almost no one will travel in connection with work and 44% are worried about being quarantined at destination while “only” 41.1% are worried about getting infected at destination.

We also interviewed 5 young professionals in this age group to be able to go deeper into questions that we still had.

Based on this data, we created an empathy map. We now had a fairly clear picture of our target group and what moves them, and what they need.

Defining the wicked problem

We first determined a user persona to ensure that we had a clearly defined target group, because we have already learned that designing for everyone often means that you design for nobody because nobody really feels addressed — and that’s no good 🙅🏽

The problem statement we decided to work on was the following:

“The young professional who travels during the pandemic needs to find accurate information about a travel destination in regards to COVID-19 measures because they would like to travel while still keeping themselves and others safe.”

We already felt that if we ideated well, this problem statement deals well with the part of the question about responsible travel and that this in turn would help contain hotspots and hopefully allow for economic regrowth. Judging from the COVID-19 numbers we are seeing today in Europe, perhaps actually creating the solution wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Samantha, our user

Ideate the solution

We ideated in several ways as we were introduced to several brainstorming techniques such as Crazy8s, Round Robin and Worst Idea. Ultimately the most effective method for Alice and Alex was brainstorming while walking around and sticking post-it’s to a wall. A bit nauseous from the smells of the sharpies….That’s how we felt like real UX designers.

There’s a Brainstorm a comin’

We also made storyboards: I must confess that our drawing qualities still require some attention. Fortunately, there are also excellent digital solutions that also work well. How happy we are to live in this time! With a clear idea and no drawing skills, we were able to create beautiful storyboards. The next step was a creating a user journey (using Miro and importing a storyboard) that helped us a lot. Suddenly it became clear what was needed.

Samantha’s User Journey

Concept Testing

What do we make users happy with?

We tested our concept in a small group and got 35 respondants which is not so bad. Here is what they determined was the most important to them:

  • An app with all official government information in one place.
  • The app must contain recent statistics regarding the number of infections
  • There must be a color-coded map where you can quickly see if you can travel safely to that country
  • There must be an option to set up push notifications so that you will be notified if the measures or situation in a country changes.

We ourselves had many other ideas, but research showed that these 4 were the most important for an MVP. We used the MoSCoW method to determine these features. Originally, based on our survey information, people had indiciated that they liked to read reviews before travelling — reviews about restaurants, attractions, and the like.

We had the idea that it would be great if people could review the COVID measures of the specific location they were traveling too but also the COVID measures of where they were from. Something like rating like “how well do people keep to the 1.5 meter rule” or “how much do people actually wear masks” (which if you’re in Amsterdam at the moment, is probably not enough). We used google forms to concept test a host of different features and as it turns out this was not the main priority for a lot of people. In fact, 21% of people don’t trust local opinions when it comes to COVID measures and only 14% think local contribution on measures is great idea. Perhaps this was an idea best kept for a later time in the product roadmap…

The concept testing also revealed that people did like our concept rating iand gave it 3.93 out of 5 ⭐ People (well, at least 57% of people) were even willing to pay 5 euros for it. Maybe our UX/UI Ironhack journey could stop here and we could quit our FT jobs to further develop this idea 🤔

Lo and behold the concept

Prototyping in a hurry

Because time was limited we made a simple prototype using Figma. We tested it and we found out that our idea in general is pretty good. People liked what we had done so far but we needed more time to make the navigation better and make the prototype look much better and more consistent.

We decided that based on the concept testing, future iterations would include: user rating of measures taken in each country, user written review of measures taken in each country, and adding local selections (such as specifics for each province in The Netherlands for instance)

Although we hope that our idea for this app will not soon be outdated we think we might need to make the app more specific for regions because it seems that rules change more and more locally every day. You can find our prototype here, remember we just started our journey as UX/UI Designers 😬 and please feel free to let us know how we could have done a better job or what your thoughts are in general on our process 🙏 We can only get better with your help!

Have we solved the problem?

No, but then again, no Government in the world has yet to solve the problem either! We have come up with something that helps us to travel in a responsible manner. An app like this can help to prevent the spread of the virus, but the most important thing is to use your own common sense. Washing your hands, social distancing and staying at home when you are sick or having a cold helps better than any app will, let’s be responsible citizens!

“It’s better to have a great team than a team of greats.” — Simon Sinek

At the beginning of this challenge, we quickly had an idea where we wanted to go. Doing good research revealed that we needed to adjust our plan and abandon parts of our plan. It is not about us, but about the user. What seemed like an impossible challenge beforehand turned out to be quite a nice problem to tackle. The teamwork was good and together we came up with a nice concept.

We hope you enjoyed this read, any feedback is appreciated 😎



Alex In The Dam

Redefining your interactions with the world, one experience at a time