Remote UX research during a global pandemic
“Okay then, what does cranky look like?”
Participants on the Zoom call went strangely quiet as the team contemplated their answer.
“Draw it for us,” said Mike, our Senior Designer.
And with that, the Miro board came to life as our Expert Advisory Board members got stuck in showing us what they thought our new emoji should look like.
Cranky was just one of the things we were told our Expert Advisors wanted to see in the Xploro Mood Diary when we asked them at our last get together in the Autumn. As promised we listened to what they had to say and delivered, which is really the whole point of the group. It was their job now to take our response and hone it, a job they take very seriously indeed.
The Xploro Expert Advisory Board is made up of a gang of youngsters, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, who are the jewel in the crown when it comes to our UX research. We rely on them to tell us what’s working, what’s broken, what could be improved and what’s missing. Their ideas, enthusiasm and frank critiques are what makes Xploro special.
They come from across the UK, as far apart as Scotland and the South East, and each have different experiences when it comes to healthcare. Some of the team have been fortunate enough to have not been near a hospital since they were born; some have been through gruelling cancer treatment pathways and have come out the other side cancer free; and some continue to juggle school life, playing with their mates, and being a kid, with chemotherapy, hair loss, operations and proton beam therapy.
The common denominator across the group is that they are incredibly enthusiastic about helping create and improve Xploro which in turn helps other children feel less anxious and have a better experience when they go into hospital.
Usually an Expert Advisory Board meeting would involve shipping everyone in from around the country and running workshops in Manchester but, as with everything in 2020, that format was blown out of the water by COVID 19. The implications of social distancing and the risks of using public transport during the pandemic are well known to all of us, but then when you consider that some of our members have compromised immune systems and an associated high risk of infection, it meant we had to go back to the drawing board if we wanted to run the sessions this year.
“What about Miro?” someone suggested. “If it’s good enough for a retro I don’t see why we can’t adapt it for this.”
Miro is an online whiteboard designed to enable teams to work together whilst working remotely and which, when we coupled it with Zoom, helped us to host our very first interactive remote UX research session with the Advisors.
The Expert Advisory Board took to the online environment like ducks to water, each with their own coloured arrow scooting around the board, dropping sticky notes of feedback or handwriting suggestions for app features.
We asked them to watch videos of new avatar dance moves and vote on them, tell us what kind of environments they wanted to experience, and what sort of items they wanted to see in their avatars’ rooms.
As always the team delivered, coming up with ideas that were important to them and that only a child could conjure up. They left us with a tonne of ideas and features, and a long development to-do list – which is exactly what we wanted.
As we wrapped up for the day our Expert Advisors, their parents and our team of facilitators all agreed that the workshop had been a great success.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and so through the need to continue our UX research with the Expert Advisory Board, in a lockdown situation, we have now chosen to change the way we run our meetings in future.
We are all in agreement that there’s no need to bring everyone in from around the country but instead we can have shorter, more frequent online get togethers which would be a win-win for all concerned.
Xploro benefits from being able to test new ideas sooner and to garner feedback from the team more frequently, and they in turn get to be involved at the heart of the app’s development without having to trek cross country and give up a whole day of their weekend.
We’ve also discussed the possibility of having separate sessions for children and parents, focussing on what each wants to get out of Xploro, whether that’s the parents requiring more control of online security for their kids or the Expert Advisors wanting a room which looks like the inside of a spaceship.
We’ll probably still have the odd face to face gathering, when we can, which will no doubt be more of a celebration and a thank you party than they have been in the past.
For now though, the future is remote collaboration – whether it’s working out how best to design a secret den under your avatar’s bed, understanding how doctors can use the app to get your feedback, how a brother or sister can keep in touch when you’re in hospital or deciding what kind of pet you want to see sitting in your spaceship.