What does cranky look like?

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.

Xploro EAB Emoji Session
Xploro EAB Cranky Emoji

Cranky was just one thing 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.


Expert advisors

The Xploro Expert Advisory Board comprises 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 we could improve and what’s missing. Their ideas, enthusiasm and frank critiques makes Xploro special.

They come from across the UK, as far apart as Scotland and the South East, and each have unique experiences of 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.

Xploro EAB Siblings

Going online

Usually an Expert Advisory Board meeting would involve shipping everyone in from around the country and running workshops in Manchester. 

However, as with everything in 2020, COVID-19 blew that out of the water. We all know the implications of social distancing and the risks of using public transport during the pandemic, but then when you consider 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.

Xploro EAB Sticky Notes

The Expert Advisory Board took to the online environment like ducks to water. Each with their own coloured arrow scooting around the board, dropping feedback notes or handwriting suggestions for app features.

We showed them new avatar dance moves and asked them to vote on them. Then we asked what kind of environments they wanted, and what items they wanted to see in their avatars’ rooms.

Xploro EAB Room Ideas

They delivered

As always the team delivered, coming up with ideas 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 the workshop, the Advisors, their parents and our team agreed it had been a great success.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Through the need to continue our UX research with The Board in a lockdown situation, we have changed the way we run meetings.

We are all in agreement that there’s no need to bring everyone in from around the country. Instead, we will host shorter, more frequent online get togethers which would be a win-win for all concerned.


Xploro EAB Avatar


Xploro benefits from being able to test new ideas sooner and to garner feedback from the team more frequently. And the team gets 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 hosting separate sessions for children and parents, focussing on what each wants to get out of Xploro. Whether that’s parents requiring more control of online security or Expert Advisors wanting a room which looks like a spaceship.

We’ll probably still have the odd face-to-face gathering, when we can. But they’ll be more of a celebration and a thank you party than they have been in the past.

Xploro EAB Welcome

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.

Richard Douglas - Studio Manager / Writer

Richard Douglas
Studio Manager / Writer