This video discusses the need to consider the organizational environment when deciding what UX research methodology to employ at what time. Whether the organization follows Waterfall, Agile, Lean, or some other development process will impact how you’re able to incorporate UX methods into the process.
- Choosing the proper research methodology is often the most difficult part for those who are new to UX research, but it is crucial to ensuring that you get the proper information. It gets easier as you become more experienced, but there are some main elements to examine that can help you understand the best methods. The first thing you need to consider is the organizational structure and development culture of your company. Traditionally, companies have utilized a project management model called Waterfall, which had distinct stages for requirements gathering, design, development, and testing, which do not overlap.
In this model, rigorous research is done in the requirements gathering and design phase, which is sometimes called discovery, and then again at the very end of development. In the last decade or so, a new methodology, called Agile, has emerged, which expresses rapid, iterative cycles of launching, measuring, and pivoting as needed, and there are not distinct sections for each phase. The whole team works in short chunks of time called sprints, in which they commit to small increments of work that are assessed on an ongoing basis. Both processes have pros and cons, but the key difference is that you're typically able to do more rigorous testing in Waterfall, but only at the beginning and end, so there isn't as much opportunity to implement recommendations from findings.
In Agile development, you're able to test consistently, but you often have a much shorter timeline, so sometimes you need to reduce scope or alter traditional methodologies to adjust. Many companies are moving toward the trend of utilizing Agile-like development methodologies, so it's helpful to understand the limitations. For instance, let's say that you're working on a new e-commerce platform for an existing brand. In the Waterfall process, you'd have the requirements gathering phase to conduct exploratory research to understand users and their needs.
Since you have time, and need to fully understand users during this phase, you'd want to use methods like extensive in-person interviews focused on understanding goals for that particular brand, or, ethnographic observation of existing customers' shopping experiences. You could focus on gathering and analyzing all of this information before any of the rest of the team starts designing or building anything. In traditional Waterfall, you then typically hand your insights to the design team, and you're brought in again at the end of the development cycle to do final validation.
Because research is done only at the beginning and at the end, there's not usually an opportunity to make any changes until the entire next Waterfall cycle has started. In an Agile environment, the whole team gets started designing and building right away. You don't usually have the luxury of time to deeply explore users' needs and goals before anyone starts. Even if you do get to work ahead a sprint or two, you won't be able to be as thorough as you would in a Waterfall requirements phase. In the example of the e-commerce platform, you might conduct just a few interviews to start, and do so over the phone instead of taking the time to observe and talk in person.
The benefits to this Agile methodology is that you can keep doing small chunks of research. For instance, you might do five interviews the first sprint, start a diary study the next sprint, and then test an early prototype of the solution in the next sprint. This iterative approach means that you can get consistent feedback to inform decisions as questions arise, and you can constantly validate if you're headed down the right path. For instance, if you identify usability issues in an early prototype, you can address them in the next sprint, and test again to ensure that the new solution works better, rather than waiting until development is complete to find the issue.
It should be noted that there are several variations of both Waterfall and Agile, and each company will have their own take, which you'll have to understand and address as you plan for incorporating UX research. There are some Waterfall companies that are starting to embrace iterative testing, and some Agile places that are incorporating some upfront research. There is no one size fits all solution, but understanding the team process and development cycle can help you best identify when and what kinds of research will make sense.
This course introduces the fundamentals of user experience research so that anyone can understand the benefits and start integrating research into their everyday design and development process. Start watching to learn how to use UX research to find the answers to the most basic questions about your customers—who, what, when, why, and how—and drive better user experiences and business outcomes.
- An overview of research methods, including usability testing, interviewing, eye tracking, surveys, and many more
- A review of the main types of research, including quantitative and qualitative, behavioral and attitudinal, and moderated vs. unmoderated
- Determining the right methodologies based on organizational environment, client type, and project stage
- Targeting the right research participants
- Crafting the right questions in the right way
- Analyzing and presenting your data