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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

How does research fit in an Agile world?

The world seems to move a lot more quickly than it did even just a few years ago. The shiniest new gadget or hardware is seemingly obsolete almost as quickly as it hits the market. As for software, websites, apps? Between new tools, changes to an API, building for a new device, or keeping up with competitors, slowing down frequently means falling behind.

Whether its called Lean, Scrum, or something else (or given no particular name), most developers rely on an Agile process. They need quick results. Quick decisions.

But decisions without data are a recipe for disaster. You could be the fastest developer in the world, turning around attractive, bug-free products at the drop of a hat, but if you don’t know what the user is thinking, the product will fail. User research remains critical in this Agile world.

Here are some things to keep in mind, to ensure your Agile research supports and enhances your development cycle, rather than gets in the way:

First, if you’re conducting research with several users, it’s important not to iterate too quickly. Making significant changes after every snippet of user feedback will actually diminish the quality of your product, ultimately slowing you down. Collaborating with the researchers is key. Work with them to ensure you’re understanding the holistic picture.

Secondly, get all the players in the same place. Any stakeholders, decision-makers, and executives should be in the room if possible. The energy and creativity that arises while observing user research should be harnessed directed toward immediate success, not bottled up and reported on later. Don’t make it a research event, make it a decision event.

Finally, it’s important to remember the big picture. Agile research is at its best when there’s a laser focus on key issues, key pieces of the puzzle. But it’s also important to understand how those pieces fit together. For example, Agile research will tell if you if the shirt looks good, it’ll tell you if the pants are working, maybe the shoes could use some improvement; but occasionally, you need to step back, conduct fuller research, and understand if the whole outfit looks good together.

While our clients had to adjust to an Agile world, we had to adjust to our clients. They want research that is quicker, faster, cheaper. But that’s not enough for us. We’ve seen the remarkable value and ROI our clients are able to get from traditional research, and we believe its critical to ensure agile research maintains that value. Therefore, collaboration and flexibility are key to every agile research engagement. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, a magic bullet tool, that can achieve the same level of results as a dynamic, customized approach. The world may move a lot more quickly, but great research can still happen at your speed.

-Matt Daughtry, Manager of Customer SuccessUsability Sciences


Read more about agile research, or reach out to us to learn more about usability at your speed.

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