5 Users Every Friday: A Case Study in Applied Research

Level: Practicing

In 2007 a large consumer electronics retailer faced significant business challenges. In pursuit of new modes of strategic flexibility and fast execution, the e-commerce division transformed its culture around Agile principles and the user experience team adapted its practices to the new paradigm. How would increased velocity affect the quality of the functionality produced? How would time-intensive activities like usability research be affected? This paper presents a case study describing successes and failures while integrating continuous research into Agile projects.


Introduction (4 minutes) + Short history of UX at the presenter’s organization. + Short history of Agile at the presenter’s organization.

Challenges (4 minutes) + The unfortunate perception of research as bottleneck + Clarifying the role of UX on a new Agile team

Informing design with research (15 minutes) + Adapting research methods to affect current and future iterations + Logistics of continuous research (e.g., costs, recruiting, test plans) + How we collected data + How we included the team

Learning about the design and making changes (8 minutes) + How we accelerated research analysis + How we shared results (with the team and at demos)

Improving team culture incrementally (6 minutes) + How we made UX practices collaborative, transparent, and pliant + How we helped establish usability as a team norm (not a bottleneck) + Recognizing and mitigating fatigue

Q&A – group discussion (8 minutes)

Handouts (sample test plan, sample report, references)

Learning outcomes
  • An understanding of real-world UX challenges affecting Agile teams who develop applications for e-commerce shoppers.
  • Practical tips for how to adapt UX research practices within an emerging Agile culture.
  • An understanding of how Agile principles are reinforced by UX processes and collaborative research.
  • Practical tools and techniques for doing research on a constant schedule.
  • Tips for compressing time for research analysis and presenting results to the team (and at demos).
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