How to Integrate Frequent Design Research into Your Agile Process

  • How can we get designs in front of stakeholders sooner?
  • How can we make better use of our testing time to make sure we are building the right thing?
  • How can we give the team insight into the “why” of what we are building, and confidence that it is the right thing to build?
  1. Create a dedicated research track with one or more researchers owning the initiatives
  2. Execute research-informed design iteration-splitting research time into smaller discovery, validation, and testing cycles to regularly inform design iteration
  3. Continue testing the product, especially after features are released
  4. Get on a cyclical research schedule so that team members come to expect when and how research will happen

Create a Dedicated Research Track

  • Regularly identify and capture new questions for research. For example, they may want to know how customers use the information provided within a certain feature, or where users are getting stuck in a certain workflow, and why. We use Miro at Think Company to collect questions alongside images of designs or sketches.
  • Represent the customer by sharing the customer feedback at critical checkpoints with stakeholders, product owners, and development teams.
  1. Review of analytics to understand macro usage trends, like page counts, time on page, drop off points, and common search terms. Use Hotjar and Google Analytics to investigate this data.
  2. Observation of customer usage through in-depth interviews, contextual inquiry, or usability testing of the existing platform to understand context and identify key pain points and workarounds
  3. Understanding of the business side of the product by conducting in-depth conversations with stakeholders to understand the goals, product, and team history
  4. Conducting card sorting exercises to understand how customers and stakeholders group like content. Use OptimalSort for this exercise if you are unable to do this in person.

Execute Research-Informed Design Iteration

  1. Sketches and blocky wireframe concepts
  2. Higher-fidelity wireframes
  3. Fully-designed prototypes

Don’t Forget About Post-Release Testing

Get into a Cyclical Research Schedule

  • Week 1: Prepare the research plan, discussion guide, and materials. This is where designers and stakeholders can help provide questions and better-define the prep material.
  • Week 2: If the research activities are unmoderated, like a survey or first click test, launch the test and check in on it regularly for participation. If they’re moderated, like an interview or observation, conduct the sessions and document field notes and weekly summaries. We like to post these in a Basecamp thread or other widely-accessible and searchable location for the entire team.
  • Week 3: Prepare summaries and design recommendations. Keep these lo-fidelity, rather than in the form of a formal presentation, to encourage socialization of the findings among the team. However, having the documentation can provide a stable source of evidence if ideas are questioned later on in the project.

Stay Focused on Your Goal



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