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uX Research in an Agile Environment

My goal for this portfolio is to demonstrate how user research is incorporated into the Agile development process. Research is vital to 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 break down the user research methods for each step.

Dashboard Alpha

Dashboard Alpha


  • This is the longest and most frustrating stage for stakeholders, but the rest of the process can move at the team’s chosen velocity when it’s done well.
  • 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 two sprints ahead of the developers
  • UX researchers should work about two 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 of the system

The stakeholders were gathered to participate in an ideation workshop.

The goal was to reframe the problem statement. The original problem statement centered on the customer and improving their experience.

The reframed statement centered the customer support team to make it more efficient for them to answer the inbound customer questions and improve the customer’s ordering experience.

The results of the research were presented to reinforce the reframed problem statement.


  • 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 the users will still uncover issues
  • UX research can help make sense of those issues, identify their frequency and severity of them and help the team prioritize them