How Privacy-First Shaped Rippl UX

The task of making a great solution for a huge number of diverse users was challenge for us, particularly in such a tight timeframe. Here’s some of what we learned along the way.

Rippl is a privacy-first check-in and alerting app, which we designed to aid the NZ government in their efforts to trace the spread of COVID-19.

What started as an experiment six weeks ago has now become one of the biggest contact tracing solutions in New Zealand. As of writing this post, we’ve had 1741 business venues using Rippl and 70,000 app downloads – positioning Rippl as the most downloaded app in both the App Store and Google Play Store shortly after its release. That kind of impact doesn’t happen without solid UX foundations.

We’re used to running experiments for and with our clients – our Ignite Workshops and Design Sprints have given us a ton of experience building big ideas on a small scale to test and learn – but this task of making a great solution for a huge number of diverse users was a new challenge for us, particularly in such a tight timeframe. Here’s some of what we learned along the way.

Privacy and UX go hand-in-hand

We knew from the start that we wanted to design Rippl with privacy at its centre – we were already seeing privacy horror stories unfolding in the nations where COVID-19 had been present before it arrived in NZ. So we asked ourselves “how might we design a solution that will aid contact tracing efforts, while needing no personal information at all?”

At the same time, we wanted to make a ridiculously simple UX, beautiful in its utility. We wanted Rippl to differ from the other solutions out there that require users to fill in digital forms or – shudder – touch a pen to sign in on paper. We wanted a solution with no lengthy sign-ins, no frilly extras…just a seamless scan-and-go.

So we made the decision to keep our users’ personal information entirely on their phone. It’s incredibly private (the data never leaves the phone) and fast – scanning a Rippl QR code is instantaneous, because the app doesn’t need to connect to a server. Users don’t even need to have a data connection in order to use Rippl – we wanted Rippl to be a seamless experience even for people in areas with bad connectivity.

Rippl requires so little effort to use, it’s almost forgettable – and in an Aotearoa that’s trying to get back to normalcy, we think it’s important that contact tracing isn’t a time-consuming chore.

Collaboration like never before

We took Rippl from concept to release in about three weeks. This fast turnaround is partly due to our technical expertise, and partly due to our experience running design sprints and discovery workshops. We often prototype rapidly, pulling together a cross-disciplinary team to make a MTP (minimum testable product) to gain early feedback from users.

Rippl was cross-disciplinary on a grand scale. Not only did we have a fantastic internal squad representing tech, design, and UX, we also had a great collaboration with the teams over at posBoss and Ackama, with generous help from Catalyst, and Sharesite too. Outside the tech world, we worked closely with the Ministry of Health to make sure that we understood every detail of the government regulations as they were being released. We also gathered feedback on our designs from contract tracers to ensure Rippl was optimised to support their workflow.

This was our first time collaborating so closely with the public sector. As a private company, we have different constraints than our friends in the government. But we also bring our own unique strengths to the table. By working with the government for the public good, we were able to release a simple yet sufficient version of Rippl before the start of Level 2, so NZ businesses could open their doors as soon as possible. And when the MoH released their COVID Tracer app soon after, we were positioned to complement the government’s solution, not compete with it – and happily, Rippl is compatible with the COVID Tracer app’s QR codes.

As a team, we have been so energised and invigorated by our work with the government. We’ve loved developing a solution for a public problem, and we can’t wait to do more – but hopefully not in the context of another major crisis.

What have we learned?

Rippl was an experiment (happily, a successful one!) and we’ve learned so much from it. In short,

  • Personal privacy is compatible with an elegant user experience,
  • Public and private sectors can make for a superpowered team, and
  • Experimentation is ALWAYS worth it.

Thanks for reading.

Prototyping is a crucial part of our IGNITE Design Sprint Process