User Research, Prototyping and User Testing



Hive collaborated with Uni4U, a startup based in Milton Keynes who create digital tools to help young people make informed decisions on higher education. Together we entered the HE Open Data Competition, run by the Department for Education, who were looking for ideas on how to create accessible, sustainable, and innovative digital tools for prospective students. After successfully winning the competition, Uni4U were awarded funding by the Department for Education, allowing us the opportunity to explore their vision to help students.

the challenge

Uni4U partnered with Hive to bid for funding in the HE Open Data Competition. After a successful win, the challenge was to produce a prototype for phase 1 of development of Uni4U’s business proposal. Focusing on using the LEO data set and other open-source data, our aim was to produce a digital, innovative way of helping students make an informed decision when choosing a university through the use of information and statistics. In just five weeks, we carried out UX workshops, produced some initial wireframes, and a prototype that was tested with users.

the result

After successful user research both in Milton Keynes and Sheffield, we were able to identify both the user needs and how to present the information required. Through the use of Webflow CMS, a high-fidelity prototype was created and tested with users. The prototype has helped to bring Uni4U’s business case to life and given us a product on which we can further collaborate.

By working with Hive IT we were able to draw on their extensive user-research and technical expertise to ensure our product is fit-for-purpose

Rachel Burgon
Co-founder of Uni4U
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card sorting and sketching workshops

We kicked off the project by holding a series of workshops down in Milton Keynes with local students who had volunteered to take part in the research. Together, through the use of a technique called card sorting, we identified the students’ key areas of interest when researching universities. The students were then asked to rank the cards in order of importance to help us determine which specific areas mattered most to them. A note was also made of what information they felt current websites lacked, so it could potentially be added in the future. We then asked students to sketch their ideas of how they imagined the website to look and the functionality it would provide. This helped aid the designers initial thoughts on the prototype, both visually and technically.

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user journey mapping

On the following day, we hosted a workshop with Uni4U where we focused on mapping out user journeys. Creating these maps helped us discover a timeline of how the users will use the product. This helped us piece together how the information the students suggested would fit within the website.

Finally, we helped Uni4U determine their brand values, mission and goals for the website by conducting a branding workshop. We also spent time discussing the personality of the website, coming to the conclusion that it should be a mix of the Sage, Magician and Caregiver archetypes.

webflow logo

wireframes and prototypes

Moving forward with the outcomes and thoughts from the workshops carried out in Milton Keynes, we created some initial wireframes using Moqups. This enabled us to quickly create and share our designs with the client gaining immediate feedback.  

The wireframes were then translated into a detailed prototype using Webflow - a web-based tool for building responsive websites. Dummy content was used to populate the prototype’s pages, and links were added to help with navigation so the client and other users could understand their purpose.


user testing

After the prototype had been created, students from the University Technology College (UTC) in Sheffield came to our on-site User Testing Lab to test the prototype. That user testing allowed us to get the students’ thoughts and feedback on the website. Our goal was to establish whether students understood the layout and structure of the information as well as the chosen language used. This exercise was particularly useful as it identified changes to be made to clarify specific functionality within the prototype.

In addition to on-site testing in Sheffield, we also carried out the same user testing with the group of students in Milton Keynes. We were able to record how the students interacted with the prototype so this could be referred back to when making final amendments. After speaking to a diverse range of students and the client, we were able to make a final round of amendments to the prototype to further improve its usability before submitting it to the DfE for the end-of-project presentation.

Technical Investigation

technical investigation

Whilst the User Research, design and User Testing were being undertaken by our UX department, our Technical team were conducting investigations around the available data sets. We had a great starting point with the LEO Data set, but with the user needs defined, we needed to make sure that supporting data was available to create a future feature-rich solution. The team gathered a list of available data sets, compared their format, availability and frequency of updates. From this comprehensive list, we then identified where the gaps in data were to meet the user needs, and how we might mitigate this missing data. Additionally, with the further understanding for the vision of the final solution, we began to create an informed high level technical architecture, and produced a detailed functional specification for the future development.

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the finished product

The finished product is a detailed prototype of a website that aims to help students make an informed decision when considering their options for higher education. Using the LEO dataset and other open-source data, the website focuses on providing students with a detailed overview of salaries of graduates on similar courses. The website will also match an individual’s personality to the universities that most suits them. We are looking forward to taking the prototype further during phase 2 of the project, enabling Uni4U and Hive to continue collaborating on what we feel is an informative and user-friendly tool for students.

Whilst we wait to develop the full solution, you can find out more about the project on the interim website here:

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