Incorporating research into Agile product development

March 10, 2017

 

Most ‘Market’ researchers will have noticed the rising numbers of ‘UX researchers’ that are appearing in businesses across the world. The UX research discipline has been running in parallel with the qualitative and quantitative industry for many years, but it has done so in a self-assured manner without associating itself closely with the MR industry. 


This article highlights how Clicked ensures that both disciplines can work together seamlessly, using a research design that will create deeper and more powerful research outputs when performing usability testing projects.


 

 

UX research shares the same principles as the MR industry


Those who specialise in UX Research have a deep and thorough understanding of UX principles and processes. These ideals are formed via academic courses, on the job learning and a scene which encourages meet ups to debate and discuss ideas. The industry is still in the early stages of its development and is a reaction to the demands of product developers who need to ensure the usability of their products is maximised.


UX researchers are extremely passionate about their craft. There is a language that is specific to the industry – users, personas, contextual enquiries, field visits, usability testing, A B testing, remote testing, guerrilla research, use cases – the list goes on. Although a relatively new discipline, it is an industry that shares the same extremely high principles as the MR industry.


The Agile approach to product development


The UX Researcher also needs to have a thorough understanding of the ‘Agile’ principle of product development. Agile is a working practice that approaches product development in an iterative manner. Have you noticed how the software and apps on your devices are constantly updating? That’s Agile in a nutshell – small, iterative improvements to products which may already be live.

 

The research usually fits into this process to guide the UX and ensure the product meets the user’s behavioural actions. You can read the principles of the Agile manifesto here.
Like UX, there is a language that researchers will be accustomed to when working in Agile environments. At its’ heart is the ‘scrum’ – a development process that you can learn more about here.


The core principle behind agile is speed and that means getting a product to market in the most basic working manner and then responding to users’ needs and product changes. It has become popular because the speed of technological change has meant that the product envisaged at the beginning of a development process may have changed dramatically by the end of the end of it.


Combining MR and Agile


Combining Market Research techniques, UX Research methods and Agile ways of working is commonplace for the researchers at Clicked. We embrace the UX industry practices and the generative way of developing products. 


The benefit of this approach is to ensure that the tactical information provided by the user testing is supplemented with the contextual information that will influence the strategy. Product stakeholders are happy to receive the results of their testing and the MR people are able to understand how the audience, brands and communications are affected by the user experience. We see brand values shifting from logo’s to experiences, and increasingly a brands online experience is a measure of repeat usage.


MR techniques to support user testing


Our researchers will usually advocate user testing that is supplemented with other forms of research that will fit into the Agile process. Here are some of the techniques we use most often:

 

  • Intercept surveys: Intercept surveys can be easily bolted onto user testing at the start of a sprint. These can provide benchmark data about the product performance pre-tasting and can be repeated post-test.

  • Triads: Easy to set up, fast and extremely useful to add context to testing. Running triads before a user test will reveal expectations and attitudes.

  • Remote depth interviews: These are extremely cost effective and fast to set up. As an agile way to supplement user testing they can slot in post testing to provide video evidence that changes have had the envisaged improvements.  

  • Mobile ethnography: This is a technique that should be used before the sprint, as it takes a while to set up and administer. Users will provide evidence using their Smartphone of their current interactions with relevant products in the category.

  • Biometrics: User testing can incorporate biometrics very cost effectively. We use eye-tracking to ensure users are able to orientate themselves within products and for communications we will also bolt on facial coding and GSR. The outputs are immediate. 


Reporting in the agile way


Agile working does not advocate reports that the MR industry produce – this goes against the principles of Agile that champion generative reporting. Agile means daily feedback that builds on the previous days testing. 


For those researchers who reside within MR, this style of working requires a shift from the comfort zone of projects offering contextual, strategic, insightful and reflective types of reporting. Those who are most senior find it difficult to adjust to this approach.


UX researchers will often feel that MR reporting is monolithic and prescriptive in the way it approaches reports and there may often be a great deal of tension between each function within the same business. 


Keeping everyone happy


This means that when we work with differing sets of stakeholders and our researchers will provide reporting in two ways:


1.    An agile reporting structure that usually comprises a word document provided on a daily basis during the fieldwork period. It lists issues encountered and suggested fixes using UX principles and practices. We will use metric / usage spreadsheets which are immediately available to stakeholders that look like this:

 

 

On many occasions a grid and stand up meeting after testing is all that is required and the problems identified will be worked on immediately, if possible.


2.    An end of sprint retrospective report that has a much deeper set of findings as well a critique on how the research was run. This will list usability issues in a hierarchy of importance to the business, supported with other insights that have been gathered during the interview process. It will also include statistics, video and quotes from the fieldwork.


Summary


The Agile approach to product development focuses on tactical changes. If research takes place it may often be guerrilla or pop-up in nature, and testing can often ignore some of the strategic and contextual issues that are at play. We have run plenty of user research projects that have highlighted how the UX has been fantastic, but the concept has been misunderstood or communicated ineffectively. 


Clicked advocates merging MR and Agile user testing disciplines to create a comprehensive research plan that is sensitive to the different stakeholder needs. In doing so we provide greater value and strategic insight that will support the brand in the long term.


For more information on how our approach to product development can work for you please contact us here

 

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