8 outstanding product responses to COVID-19

4 min read
Tom Lucido
  •  May 21, 2020
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Designers and developers have a bias towards action—it’s inherent to the job—and when teams are unable to create together, sometimes it feels like your options to contribute don’t extend that far beyond donating. But, in the time since the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 an international public health emergency, designers, developers, and makers have been churning out new products and features. The response has largely been inspiring, as has the velocity with which these products are being built and shared.

A number of community-oriented products have proved that through empathy and innovation, designers and developers are able to help, and help quickly. Here are a few products that are impressive—and that we’re grateful for.

Fighting misinformation: Poynter Institute’s Database and WhatsApp Bot

Designed to easily bring validated and trustworthy COVID-19 info to anyone with a smartphone.

Polymer Institute created a WhatsApp chatbot to connect millions of users with more than 80 fact-checking organizations worldwide to identify trending stories, then sort out truth from myth. Users can check if circulating Coronavirus content has been rated as false by the programs 100+ fact checkers, or submit new information for review. So far the team has identified over 4,000 prominent hoaxes, with more added to their searchable database by the hour.

Employment despite quarantine: CoronaTasks

Quickly filter through options to identify great opportunities for supplemental work.

Unemployment rates have reached epic proportions globally, but CoronaTasks is doing its part to help keep income flowing. The site’s database directs to hand-selected websites where people can earn money at home through a variety of tasks like answering surveys, product testing, translation services, and more.

Order in safely: Takeout COVID

Upleveling at-home dining with richer information and fewer fees than delivery.

Knowing which bistros are still serving and which have shuttered can be the difference between a full belly and a non-essential trip out of the home.

Takeout COVID offers up-to-date information about the status and service options of local bars and restaurants, making it easier for hungry (and thirsty) patron-would-be’s to support their favorite businesses. The product was created as a side project by the team at Coast, as a free, public service to help communities.

Honorable mention: SmartChef

Want to learn to cook gourmet meals at home? InVision’s own Mindaugas Petrutis helped launch, connecting top restaurant chefs with those quarantined at home via virtual dinner parties. Brilliant!

Educating at home: Mango Classroom

A brilliant education strategy to provide help during the pandemic.

With schools closed, kids need resources to keep learning, and teachers need continued help to keep conducting virtual lessons.

While it isn’t a new product, per se, Mango is offering their Classroom online language-learning program for free until the end of the school year, and that certainly is a major shift in product strategy. Might this lead to more users and stronger brand loyalty when schools reopen in the fall? Possibly. If there was ever a time to sacrifice in the short-term to survive for the long, it’s now and Mango seems to understand that.

Reducing panic purchases: Toilet Paper Calculator

A tongue-in-cheek assessment that’s as shareable as it is helpful

Wash your hands, stay at home, take only what you need! How many times did you hear that in the past few months? With the Toilet Paper Calculator, digital agency Bons found a creative way to discourage stockpiling by helping consumers understand how much tissue their household actually really demands..

Staying positive: Some Good News

Leveraging already-popular platforms to promote an honest-to-goodness reminder of humanity in the world

It’s easy to forget that digital media is a tech product as well. Creators across all platforms have gotten very creative when making new content, offering emotional respite and doling out gratitude for those on the front lines. And laughs. Perhaps the most notable so far has been John Krasinski’s Some Good News on YouTube, because it’s just… a breath of fresh, COVID-free air.

The web series showcases uplifting stories and interviews with A-list celebs, including other alumni of The Office. If you haven’t done so yet, do yourself a favor and go check it out. Great work, Halpert.

Staying sharp—together: Quarantine Book Club

Taking a design-minded approach to revolutionize the typical author Q&A.

Your local independent bookstore may be drive-up or delivery only, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without weekly readings and author Q&As. Started by Mule design co-founders Mike Monteiro and Erika Hall, Quarantine Book Club is a virtual event where people from around the world log-on nightly to hear an author speak on their book and answer questions. Though the programming slate relies heavily on design, authors run the genre gamut, from history to YA fiction.

Keeping “social” in social distance: Netflix Party

Revolutionizing the way people—especially teenagers hungry for their friend groups—are socializing and staying mentally healthy.

Just because school and the office are closed up doesn’t mean movie night needs to be cancelled. With Netflix Party, subscribers can log onto a private, virtual screening room to remotely watch content together with friends in real time, and chat live. Although this chrome extension has been around for several years, the team recently invested in the product backend and new servers to accommodate a tremendous influx of new users.

Similar products are popping up for other platforms as well including Screner for HBO, BBC Together, and Metastream, but Netflix Party stands apart with more than 10 million people attending “parties” so far. We know how important quality time with others is for our psyche, and this is just one excellent way to stay connected.

The collection here barely scratches the surface of all the good work happening now. If you think there’s a new product or feature that should be included here, tweet at us here! We’ll update the list as suggestions roll in.

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