The Potters gave debuts to Bojan Krkic, Mame Biram Diouf and Phil Bardsley but could not break down Aston Villa, who snuck all three points through Andreas Weimann
The Potters fell to an opening-day loss courtesy of Andreas Weimann's winner five minutes into the second half and the Welshman was frustrated that his side were unable to break down the visitors.
"We expected more," Hughes remarked to reporters. "Credit to Villa; I thought they came with a game-plan and executed it well.
"We found it difficult to find the answers in terms of what we were trying to do. I thought we were the better team in that first half, created more chances, had more opportunities and, with a little bit more care with the final pass, I think we could have got the first goal.
"It's always important to get the first goal, especially at Premier League level because it's huge. Unfortunately, Villa were able to do that - disappointing because it happened just after half-time when we'd spoken about the importance of it.
"From that point onwards, it became easier for Villa to see the game out because they got people behind the ball, worked hard and made it difficult for us in the final third to be able to create anything.
"It's a wake-up call because there was a lot of expectation and maybe that's been tempered somewhat. Maybe that's no bad thing because we know it's a season where we're going to have to work hard. As a group we've never denied that, but we need to be better than we were."
Former Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic was among those making their debuts for Stoke at the Britannia Stadium and Hughes is confident that his marquee signing will improve.
"I thought it was important that we got [the new faces] some game time, certainly for Bojan because he's not been exposed to the Premier League," he observed.
"I thought he showed glimpses in certain situations where he can show his quality.
"We need to be able to find him in those areas on more occasions than we were able to. As the season progresses, we certainly think that's what's going to happen.
"In this early period we'll have to make sure that he plays in the right games against the right opposition and we get the best out of him. It was important that he just got game time and he'll be better for it."