Fresh From the Field – COVID Tracer App by RUSH Digital

5 months ago by

This week we have a very timely Fresh from the Field by RUSH, we get a behind-the-scenes look into their hard work on the NZ COVID Tracer app. During the 2020 lockdown, RUSH’s design and delivery teams worked hard remotely and collaboratively at home, to rapidly launch the initial version of the NZ COVID Tracer app and QR code generator, all within six weeks.

The brief:

Early 2020 was an anxious time as New Zealand’s COVID-19 cases were increasing. The evolving pandemic required a responsive, human-centric technology solution to meet the New Zealand Government’s need to deliver on their ‘go hard and go early’ strategy for clearly guiding citizens, stabilising the economy and maintaining a confident test and trace programme.

Virus control is directly related to the speed at which contact tracers can reach individuals who may have come into contact with COVID-19. RUSH had been researching and prototyping solutions since the pandemic began, so when we were engaged by the Ministry of Health we were able to quickly and collaboratively align requirements.


The app needed to be elegantly simple, have clear pathways to action, and consider the needs of a broad group of users including those with access limitations, visual impairments, and low trust in Government.

The final digital solutions were an Android and iOS app, a QR Code checkin and digital diary, a Bluetooth exposure notifications service, and a Rapid QR Code poster generator.

The app is integrated with the Ministry’s National Contact Tracing System which sends out notifications to alert users who may have come into contact with a COVID-19 case which speeds up contact tracing, ultimately saving lives.



The design response:

This project had a running start driven by fast prototyping and close collaboration between design, delivery, and the Ministry of Health team engaging with contact tracers, public health professionals, government and community stakeholders.

During the nationwide lockdown in March 2020, designers drew journey maps on sketch pads at home and rapidly moved into flows in Figma so design and delivery teams could work remotely and collaboratively. The initial NZ COVID Tracer app and QR code generator was launched within six weeks.


The design of the interface leveraged the distinct Unite Against COVID-19 brand identity work done by the team at Clemenger BBDO that has received world acclaim for it’s clear and simple communication.

We created a digital design system that was cohesive with the campaign to create user familiarity, heavily leaned into the simplicity principle to ensure it was accessible and usable by the mass audience, and worked with the brand team to extend it for the digital medium, integrating their feedback along the way to ensure the brand and interface messaging was well aligned with the through the line communication activity.



We’ve now had over a year of iteration and improvements informed by research, user feedback and interviews, prototype usability testing, and pre-release pilots. These help us challenge assumptions, understand the implications of design changes, and discover possibilities for further improvement.

Use of the app has shown to be more accurate than memory in recalling movements and dramatically speeds up contact tracers’ ability to identify locations of interest and alert people who have been there. This stops the virus from spreading, keeping New Zealanders safe and businesses open.

As of 19 August 2021, there have been 2,958,278 all time app registrations, 325,451,734 QR code scans on 624,785 QR code generated posters and more than half of users have activated Bluetooth tracing (1,580,427 active users).



  • RUSH
  • Ministry of Health
  • The team of 5 million



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