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User Experience Research at hedgehog lab

Kathryn WhartonUser Research

An introduction to user experience research at hedgehog lab

As a leader in web and mobile app development hedgehog lab has embedded user experience research (UXR) into the product development process to understand the characteristics, aims and behaviour patterns of the users to create digital products that they want to use. 

UXR informs and inspires design and we place real people and their needs at the centre of the design process and, consequently, at the foundation of our products. 

Let’s take a look at how we approach UXR at hedgehog lab and find out why it’s such an important part of our product development process. 

What is UXR?

UXR is simply the study of your users. 

It involves analysing the needs and behaviours of users through observation and feedback. It provides a deep understanding of how users live their lives and identifies their everyday needs and challenges. 

That insight is applied to the development of digital products that offer solutions and make users’ lives easier. 

David Scott, one of hedgehog lab’s user experience researchers, believes UXR is simply problem solving: “UXR is all about uncovering the tensions and challenges in users’ lives to identify and build solutions to solve them.”

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How we do UXR

Each project is different so requires a bespoke UXR approach. UXR can be conducted using quantitative or qualitative methods or a combination of the two. This provides objective data and subjective opinion to shape a holistic picture of how users might receive an app. 

We have a four-stage approach to UXR that gives our clients a thorough understanding of their users’ needs and behaviours: 

  1. Initial investigation - reviewing the landscape an app will exist in and users’ current behaviour

  2. Field research - observing and gathering feedback from users

  3. Analysis - formulating data thematically to show patterns and trends

  4. Testing - testing prototype apps with users to refine the overall user experience

There are lots of research methods used within these four stages but some of the most common are: 

  • Competitor analysis

  • Pilot interviews

  • Innovation workshops

  • Focus groups

  • Observations

  • Surveys

  • 1:1 and group interviews

  • Ethnographic studies (where researchers observe users in real-life situations)

  • Behavioural archetypes

  • Personas

  • A/B testing

  • Remote testing

  • In-house usability testing

  • Hypothesis testing

By gathering data from users, observing them in their lives and testing their use of apps, our UXR team verifies users’ wants and needs to give clients more certainty that their app will meet them. 

For David, it’s about finding the right data for every client. “Research can sound academic but we try to make it as simple as possible”, he says. “It’s not about giving clients a boring report - we provide useful, meaningful insights about their users.”

With the advances in digital technology we can gather user insight from anywhere in the world. Our team has experience conducting research remotely from the Middle East to the Americas. During one project based in Kenya, to gather data from users they utilised technologies like WhatsApp. While this presented challenges initially, it actually added to our research process. “WhatsApp emulates a way that people communicate in their normal life,” says David. “Through these “normal” conversations, we managed to  get more candid feedback from participants than we might have in more formal research settings like focus groups.” This prior experience of conducting remote research gave us the confidence in our ability to continue to conduct excellent UXR during the Covid-19 pandemic. A great piece of software we have added to our toolkit to support remote UXR is Lookback which has enhanced how we conduct interviews and testing. 

With a huge range of methodologies and global audiences available, UXR really can be tailored to suit the needs of any mobile or web app development project. 

How we eliminate bias

Patterns of behaviour known as cognitive bias can lead to inaccurate or confounding UXR results. 

We try to eliminate as much cognitive bias as possible before starting a UXR project so we can gather reliable data. 

Bias can come from the researcher, from the research methods and/or from the respondents. That’s why we tailor research methods and activities to each project and deliver them in a way that respondents can express their honest views without influence. It can be difficult to do that if you’re emotionally connected to a project - which is why our independent UXR team can provide the objective data our clients need. 

So, why do we do UXR?

As you can see, UXR is a detailed process that takes time to plan and deliver. Is it worth it? Well, we certainly think so. 

UXR is key to solving problems, meeting user needs and creating products people love. Here are three reasons why hedgehog lab think it’s essential to any web or mobile app development project: 

1. It validates your ideas

Creating a product without talking to and understanding your users will often lead to a product, or at least features within a product, that does not fulfil user needs. 

It’s vital to validate your assumptions about your app with thorough user data. Your thinking might be sound and you’re good to move to the development stage. Or your ideas might be challenged enough to go back to the drawing board. Either way, your concept will be robustly tested before you start building it. 

2. Time and cost savings

There are plenty of ways to reach your users that cost very little time and money, such as small sessions of guerilla testing, observation and short interviews. But the most effective research does take time and will cost money. 

UXR is an investment in your product. That investment can deliver significant time and cost savings in the long-term because it validates your ideas at the start, reducing the need for rework at later stages of the development process. 

3. Support for new ideas

We all know how difficult it is to get a board or senior leaders to buy into a new product - especially when it’s an innovative idea that isn’t on the market yet. 

UXR gives you the evidence you need to get support for your idea. It can demonstrate a market for the new product, prove a user need and test usability. That data is invaluable in getting your internal stakeholders to back you, and in giving them confidence that your app is being built on solid principles and the groundwork for success has been laid. 

What we’ve achieved with UXR

UXR has made a real difference to many of our clients and their web and mobile applications. Here are just two of our stand out case studies.

  • aidx

We helped aidx to develop an Android mobile app which created a peer-to-peer mutual aid network that allows those in developing countries to send, receive and pool money wherever they are in the world. 

During a four-week discovery phase, our multidisciplinary team carried out in-depth market research and user research to help aidx understand the market and needs of their users. 

Leveraging the hundreds of hours of interviews from real people in East Africa that the aidx team conducted before we were onboarded, we developed a detailed product roadmap that enabled aidx to identify high-priority features for its Android mobile app. 

  • How Busy is Toon?

How Busy is Toon? is a web application built by Newcastle City Council to increase public confidence in returning to the high street following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. 

The app utilises data from a range of different sources to provide real-time information on how busy Newcastle city centre is, helping people to make informed choices about whether to travel or not. Newcastle City Council asked us to make this complex data as user friendly as possible. 

We conducted extensive research, interviewed users and tested prototypes to inform the design and development of the app and refine its content and user experience. 

Let us help you

UXR is an essential part of developing effective web and mobile apps. It has helped us achieve our status as a global app development company. If you’d like to know how our team of incredibly talented UX researchers can make a difference to your digital products then get in touch now.