uX Research in an Agile Environment

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My goal for this portfolio is to demonstrate how user research is incorporated into the Agile development process. Research is a vital component of any product or software design effort and is implemented throughout the development lifecycle.

Using one of the many diagrams available of the Agile development cycle, I obtained the one below from ClearTech Interactive , let’s breakdown the user research methods for each step.

Concept of agile software development


  • This is the longest and most frustrating stage for stakeholders, but when it’s done well the rest of the process can move at the team’s chosen velocity
  • Stakeholder interviews - what behaviors do they want to change, what KPIs do they want to improve
  • Identify the primary users of the system or application
  • Determine the deliverables from the research and align on the amount of time to complete them - complex deliverables like journey maps and service blueprints take more time to complete
  • User interviews - five users per user group is generally sufficient to obtain saturation 
  • Field Studies - this method takes the longest amount of time, but provides a wealth of information about the users, their pain points, the context in which they work


  • All the time spent interviewing and observing the users really pays off at this stage
  • UX/UI designers can start wireframing and prototyping the solution
  • UX research can reach out to the users from the Plan stage to get their feedback
  • Users provide feedback on the wireframes and prototypes 


  • UX/UI designers should work about 2 sprints ahead of the developers
  • UX researchers should work about 2 sprints ahead of the UX/UI designers
  • UX research feeds information into the Agile machine and we really start cranking out the different features and functionality for the system
  • Design and research continue to iterate on the wireframes while the developers start coding the front and back ends for the system


  • Usability testing - this is my second favorite thing to do, my favorite is field study/observation
    • Users need to be able to complete a task and metrics need to be collected against it
    • It is not a test without metrics and task completion
    • A clickable prototype can be used, as long as a task can be completed
    • I’ll get off my soapbox now


  • As each new feature is deployed, test it with your users 
  • Quick and dirty user testing - 15 to 20 minutes tops


  • Full end to end usability test of the system


  • All of the user interviews, field observation, user feedback session, and usability testing will absolutely launch an excellent product, but there will still be issues uncovered by the users
  • UX research can help make sense of those issues, identify the frequency and severity of them and help the team prioritize them

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