Perfectly rounding off our recent focus on User Experience Research, Laura McKay profiles hedgehog lab's UXR Team, explains how our partners benefit by working alongside such our diverse research team and unveils their plans to improve what they can offer clients.
Recently, hedgehog lab's UX Research Team has been very active at our keyboards with all three members of our small but skilled team dedicating time to scribing blogs.
My colleague Emily Hewitson was first to step up with an excellent piece offering advice on how user researchers can swerve five of the most common biases introduced in user testing.
Up next was Caitlin Vitty, explaining the importance of user research and its capacity to influence the success of a product.
Most recently, I composed an item analysing the different types of user researcher, exploring the value of generalists and specialists and analysing the DNA of the team here in the lab (not literally!).
One of the most appealing parts of writing these has been the opportunity to spread the word about the work our team does.
The posts we've penned have gone down well with our blog readers, and it's been particularly gratifying to be a part of the discussions they're sparking on networks like LinkedIn and Twitter, where industry experts and even passers-by have taken notice.
But while we're enjoying the opportunity to act as thought leaders in the area, we also recognise that informing people as to the benefits and best practices in user research is only half the battle.
In addition to getting companies to buy-in to the advantages of user research, we also need them to buy into us.
At hedgehog lab, we're never shy in boasting about our team's ability. World-renowned brands place their trust in our talented team, which includes talent ranging from world-class developers to BIMA 100 winning designers.
To give you the chance to begin to get an understanding of how fantastic our UXR Team is, I thought I'd put together another piece to provide a more comprehensive insight into our team, our methods and our work.
What do we do?
User Experience Research is the process of discovering the behaviours, motivations and needs of customers. In our case, that means the end user, and that is most often those who'll install our client's app. This is achieved by various types of user feedback, including but not limited to observation, task analysis and more.
Digital designs should be based on the needs of users.
Our primary goal when conducting this research is to inform the design process - ensuring products are crafted in a manner that addresses the needs and desires of end users.
Importantly, the method also allows us to challenge preconceived assumptions made by both ourselves and our clients, ensuring we design products that have a purpose for users.
Our user research process differs based on many variables. While our client's budget is unquestionably one of those, there is no 'one size fits all' solution in any case, and accordingly, the process naturally differs per project.
As such, it isn't really possible to outline our full process, but we can share some of the methods that are in our UXR toolbox.
When working with us, you can expect to see us choosing the most suitable practices from the likes of the below...
Some of the tools we'll use to help make your product a success.
Ahead of smashing out this post, we put our heads together to discuss how we work as a team. The exercise proved partly to help us optimise our working methods, but also to get to understand each other more.
One of the outputs of the discussion between the three of us was how well we seem to complement one and other as a team. On a personal level, I was keen to point out how well we collaborate and the positive effect that has on ensuring we're providing our clients with maximum value.
Touching on this, Caitlin also pointed out that the flat hierarchical structure of hedgehog lab ensures we can all work to develop the way we work as a team, ensuring our clients (and their customers!) are always kept at the front of our mind.
And though we work well as a team, one thing we all agreed on was that our diversity in knowledge and background (more on that later) is another driver that is just as big a bonus for those we work with. As Emily highlighted, we each tackle projects from entirely different perspectives, and this makes for a more considered user research process.
Who are we?
As touched upon above, we each approach user research from unique outlooks. To give you an insight into why we thought we'd profile ourselves.
Emily Hewitson (left), Caitlin Vitty (centre) and myself presenting to fellow hedgehogs.
My own education was permeated by art and design. In high school, I studied Art and Design Technology; in college, I completed a foundation course in Art and Design (while specialising in 3D Design) and in university, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 3D Design Furniture and Product. Unsure about my next steps, I also completed a Masters in Multidisciplinary Innovation.
Following education, I set up my own design company called Slope Design and volunteered for the National Trust. Elsewhere, I also worked as a Research Assistant and Innovator in Residence at Northumbria University, where I'd meet a San Francisco-based Google Glass employee who'd introduce me to the concept of User Experience.
After finding my interest in UX, I kept my eyes out for roles close to home. hedgehog lab has great prominence in the North East and having noticed their presence at numerous events, I spotted an opportunity they were advertising in UX Research. After checking out Glassdoor reviews, I applied, was successful and have been enjoying working here since early 2017.
Emily is undoubtedly our psychology specialist. Having studied the science at college, she followed her passion into university, first earning a Bachelor of Science degree in the topic before continuing to work on a Psychology Masters. In total, Emily has already racked up six years of exposure to, knowledge in and experience of the subject.
During a chat with a university tutor, Emily discussed career options to see what was available away from a PhD. After UXR was mentioned in passing, Emily conducted some research (pun intended) of her own and decided it was something she'd enjoy.
A research workshop we carried out with Northumbrian Water.
Continuing to be proactive Emily took to Google. After searching for tech companies in Newcastle, she quickly found hedgehog lab's site and liked the look of our work. After exchanging emails, Emily soon joined the team as an intern.
Last but not least, there's Caitlin. On finishing a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (specialising in Visual Communications), Caitlin went on to complete a Foundation Degree in Visual Communications (this time specialising in Digital Design) and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Enterprise.
Caitlin first took notice of UX during her first digital project on app design, which included aspects of research such as competitor analysis. After querying her tutors, she began exploring User Research.
As part of hedgehog lab's community efforts, the company maintains good relations with Newcastle College. Caitlin took advantage of this to visit the lab and collaborate on a project before emailing to explore work experience opportunities. Much like Emily, she has since transitioned into a permanent role that she balances with continued studies.
What's coming next?
Far from resting on our laurels, the culture of iterative improvement we're instilling within the UX Research Team demands we continuously analyse ways we can improve the way we work to benefit our clients and help them to give more to their customers.
The common thread between our team is a profound interest in people and their motivations. What assists us in unearthing these improvements in how we conduct user research is our backgrounds.
Personally, I want to continue to refine our process and deliverables while ensuring we all continue to grow as professionals. Part of this will come in learning from each other - I'm looking forward to learning more in the field of psychology from Emily for example.
As part of efforts to help increase our value internally, we recently took part in a marketing ideation workshop.
To increase the value of our work, I also want to ensure that our work is 'transferable', to make our research work available to all who work at hedgehog lab. We hope that this could lead to research-led content and more informed decision-making, amongst other benefits.
Elsewhere, I'm passionate about increasing my knowledge on the topic of accessibility. Becoming an expert in inclusive design would have a beneficial impact for our product teams, clients and their customers; whether their disability is permanent, situational or temporary. By interacting with and learning from people with a range of perspectives and abilities, our products can only get better!
Unsurprisingly, psychology is also on Emily's radar, as she's keen to increase our entire team's understanding of the importance of psychology in testing and beyond.
Emily believes the main advantage of introducing an increased consideration of psychology in testing to be in boosting the reliability and accuracy of results.
Finally, Caitlin is looking to strengthen the reputation of our User Research Team by carrying out presentations on the importance of UXR and its principles.
By getting out in the field, Caitlin hopes that she'll not only be able to spread the word on hedgehog lab but also open up more discussion on UXR best practices, ultimately with the aim of bringing back useful ideas for us to integrate into our own work.
In all, it's an exciting time to be the hedgehog, and it's a great time to be part of our User Research Team. I hope this post has helped you gain an insight into the work we carry out, clarified why different backgrounds matter and impressed on you the importance of working with UX Researchers who never settle for what is already in place!
Looking to learn more about UXR? Learn why validation is key in product development.