The following case study is a snapshot view of agile mobile app development at a startup building wireless augmented reality ear buds called Here One. Users controlled the settings of the ear buds using the Here One mobile app. Here One is the successor of Here Active Listening. Learn More

Test 'Listening Profile', a new hearing calibration feature embedded in the onboarding flow of the Here One app, to identify pain points and improve the user experience before releasing the solution on the app store.

An easier and more meaningful hearing calibration experience for users. Increased feature engagement after the user completes the initial onboarding process.

Role & Team
Snapshot of agile mobile app development for a startup.
For this project I conducted usability testing, ran a beta program, defined design briefs, and created screen mockups, working closely with one product manager and one designer.

Methods & Tools
Moderated usability testing 
Online or phone interviews 
Mobile app data queries (SQL)
Meet Listening Profile (LP):
A hearing calibration feature designed to personalize the sound output of the Here One wireless ear buds to the individual user. ​​​​​​​

LP was integrated into Here One's onboarding process, setting the tone for the rest of the product experience. Since there were many uncertainties about the UX and overall value of the feature, we were eager to iteratively test and improve the solution before release.
The Solution
What may seem like a few visual changes were actually rounds of iteration fueled by research and design. Read on for the details.
Challenges & Constraints
Inclusive Design
Since our target consumer included hard of hearing users, hearing sensitive users, as well as a majority of users that did not self-identify with either, we needed to design an experience that felt relevant and was beneficial to all.

Hardware Constraints
There were limitations on what we could and could not do with the audio processing technology given the hardware design.
User Research Overview
Were we moving in the right direction? We took to evaluative research to find out, combining several methods.
Given audio feedback via the ear buds was an essential part of the user interface, we built a functional prototype for testing.
Screener survey
8 in-person interviews
21 phone interviews
Email exchange
Mobile app analytics
Final evaluation survey

Participant Groups
A. Existing Users
B. New Users
C. Existing Users with Hearing Loss
D. New Users with Hearing Loss
E. New Users with Hearing Sensitivity
Usability Testing
To gather initial reactions and interaction-level feedback, we recruited a mix of users to conduct usability testing.
A total of 8 research participants in the area were invited to HQ to test the usability and comprehension of the functional prototype in-person.​​​
The instructions prompted users to move the slider until they could barely hear the tone. Users performed the exercise for 5 tones per ear, while white noise played in the other ear. The tone was played intermittently, getting louder as the slider moved further to the right. 
Interaction-Level Learnings
Overall feedback was neutral to positive from all participant groups. Users did not perceive the exercise as too lengthy, which was one of our hypotheses. Nonetheless, the results revealed many opportunities to improve the interaction, including:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Further Research
To address the remaining research questions, the same participants were given functional prototypes to take home. We also recruited additional participants who participated in the study remotely.
There were 27 beta testers in total. The study lasted more than 30 days and combined interviews, behavior tracking, and surveys.
More interviews were conducted remotely to follow up on the onboarding experience. Sound clips were embedded in the final report to foster empathy among colleagues.
Behavior Tracking
I queried the database containing mobile app logs using SQL to create visualizations of L/R hearing profiles among test participants. This same method was also used to extract other data, such as what % of users kept the LP feature on, and what % users calibrated their buds a second time after the onboarding process.
A final evaluative Typeform survey was sent to participants.
Product-Level Learnings
The beta program resulted in further recommendations for the product design and overall user experience.

A New Default Baseline
The modal profile suggested that LP had calibrated the buds to more accurately present how users hear real world sounds (i.e. boosting the higher frequencies that are reduced due to occlusion). This finding brought us to set a new default baseline for the product.

Beyond Onboarding
After set up, app data logs revealed that few users attempted to re-engage with LP, which was tucked away in app settings. This finding prompted us to think about how we can remind people of the existence and value of LP and personalization more broadly after the initial onboarding process.

Robustness of Personalization
One hearing sensitive user mentioned that LP actually increased the volume of sound frequencies that were painful for him. This and other findings highlighted the benefit of moving from a coarse, 5-frequency band model to one with more frequency bands to more accurately capture hearing preferences.
Design Objectives
We defined the objectives of the next set of design iterations drawing input from research, alignment with the product team, as well as assessment of similar apps. We also tested the new screens iteratively using the RITE method.

[1] Reduce feelings of anxiety of the current “test-taker” experience by exploring designs to send an alternative message: everyone is unique, with different hearing. 
[2] Re-design the multi modal interface for each tone to make the experience easier and reduce disappointment among users that are not able to hear the tone at the current maximum volume.
[3] Surface LP in the application so that users engage with the feature more post-onboarding.
[4] Increase number of tones/frequency bands per ear (increasing LP robustness). 
[5] Include a step to ensure environment is sufficiently quiet.
The end result was an updated interaction with louder tones and more tones per ear (reflecting more frequency bands). We also surfaced the solution more prominently in-app, moving it to the main menu rather than within the profile screen.

Retail Care Experience
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