Doing user research to improve the user experience is an important piece in the process of designing any digital product, collecting information from users to better understand them is essential to launch a successful product.
However, as designers when we work in a team that follows an agile process many times we find several challenges and we ask ourselves:
Where does the UX Research fit in?
What can we do without hindering agility within our team?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer for these questions, everyone has to find out what is the best way to work in their work environment, however, this article is an attempt to show only one of the many ways to do User Research within an agile process, I hope it will serve you as a baseline so you can start implementing a process that works for you.
The Growth-Driven Design process
First of all, it is important to explain the process that we will use as a guideline, GDD or Growth-Driven Design is a process that is used on top of the agile methodology, broadly speaking GDD is based on 3 fundamental phases:
The strategic phase is important to form a clear understanding of users and business goals so we can build the digital product around those two important aspects. As a result of the strategic stage, we define objectives, Jobs to be done, User Personas, Fundamental Assumptions, User Journey Mapping, and Information Architecture.
At this phase, depending on the type of project, we will build and launch the product to the market, which will serve as a starting point to later build on it, by launching a product in an agile way we can begin to obtain feedback from users quickly to make better decisions and improve the product based on the user’s real needs.
The objective of this stage is to dedicate time to the growth of the product to offer greater value to the user, help to scale, and contribute to the growth of the business. It is at this stage where the team collects information from real users to build a list of actions to take that improve the user experience.
How to do UX Research within the GDD process
Now that we know the process to follow, we can go into more detail and indicate when and how user research is done within this process.
Before that, I think is important to explain that we will split User research into two types:
- Strategic Research
- Tactical Research
It is the research that is done with the objective of having a complete understanding of the users and the business goals to have a solid base on which to make the strategic decisions of the product, this type of research is less frequent and is carried out outside of the Sprints.
The duration of the strategic research is more than a week since you have to talk continuously with users and stakeholders to get the information we need to help us create a product of greater value for both of them, and as a result of extensive research, we will have results that could last between 3, 6 or 12 months.
As a result of this type of research, these types of documents can be created:
- User Personas
- Journey maps
- Empathy maps
- Affinity Diagrams
It is the research that is done to identify usability problems and answers specific questions of the product that is being built and serves to validate specific hypotheses, this type of research is frequent and is carried out within the Sprint by the product team.
To carry out this type of research you can run different tests like the following:
- Usability Test
- A/B Testing
- 5-second Test
- First Click Test
Tactical Research Example:
“The text of the button should say “Send” or “Register and continue”? The answer should be given by an A / B Testing study that indicates the correct direction to follow.
Strategic Research Example:
“Who are our users? What are their goals? How does our product fit into their life? How does our product solve their problems?” The answer should be to make user interviews and try to get to know our users better to make decisions about our product that improve the way we solve our clients’ problems.
Now that we know more details about the two types of research that we can implement, we will put them in context, below we can see a graph that shows at what specific moment in the Growth-Driven Design process we can do each of these types of research:
As we can see in the image the strategic research is done at the beginning of the project to help with the product strategy and then, once the product is launched within the continuous improvement stage we must do short and constant research that will help us take specific decisions when building new features.
It is worth mentioning that the strategic research is done at the beginning of the project and also must be carried out every 3 months to review the strategy and ensure that the needs of our users remain the same, this way we will update our strategy and we can continue with the tactical research based on the updated strategy.
In summary, the research on user experience cannot be restricted by trying to be more agile and move faster in the development of a product but it cannot be unlimited in time.
It may be tempting to want to do as much research as possible at the beginning to have as many answers and information before start developing the product but the truth is, we will never have all the answers and what might realize is that the more we learn the more we need to know, this is not productive either, the ideal scenario is in the balance between the two things, do strategic research first to have a well-founded strategy and then launch the product to learn from real users that help us improve the product in a more efficient way.