For decades usability testing has been the fundamental tool in UX. Getting the product in front of the target market for them to use and experience is found to be an invaluable resource that makes a significant impact in terms of shaping the product design.

While there is no doubt that usability testing is important in product design, the growing demand for a faster approach in user testing and product marketing poses a problem with how usability testing works, which we are all aware that it takes a while to conduct a usability test.

In this sense, it is but a practical solution to use Agile philosophy and methodology and integrate this with usability testing. 

In this article, Agile UX Testing, we will discuss more of this combined method to meet the fast-paced iterative approach to product development.

This article will also cover the following subtopics: 

What is Agile UX Testing?

Before we define Agile UX testing, we need to understand first the basic definition of Agile.

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Agile originates from software development creation and focuses on Agile teams collaboration and efficiency. 

Agile UX combines the use of Agile software methodology with UX design methods. It follows these simple principles:

  • It values individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • It creates a working software over a comprehensive documentation
  • It establishes customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • It responds to change over following a fixed, forecasted plan

Agile UX testing is an iterative customer-centric approach that provides many small sample usability testing with the target user at every stage of the product development. This allows UX designers to optimize the product prior to its launch. 

This is a strategy that helps reduce time and money wasted in design and development with much higher results in terms of customer engagement and satisfaction score.

Why Agile and User Testing go well together?

The increasing demand for UX practitioners to handle critical roles on user research, user testing budgets, and other tasks with better project management and product management paved the way to utilize Agile UX testing methodology since this method was adopted to build working prototypes fast and can work on any further changes.  

Organizations of different types and sizes consider the Agile UX process in their user testing and research, user testing, and usability studies primarily because of its faced-paced method as compared to the traditional usability testing. 

Overall, Agile UX enables better usability testing, redesigning to boost the Agile UX Testing process.   

How does Agile boost UX Testing?

User experience is a critical element in the product development process. Companies in different industries strive hard to build a product that is appealing and engaging to its customers. 

The problem in achieving better UX is the requirements keep on changing. Thus, usability testers and developers need a method that gives more scope for iterations. 

In light of these changing requirements, let us discuss how Agile can help boost User Experience Testing and help better transform the user centered product development process. 

Shorter but frequent test cycles

All product designers know that there will be a lot of iterations when it comes to a better user experience. A good workaround for this is testing and development cycles need to be shorter but more frequent. 

This is where the Agile methodology comes to play, which enables a sprint-based approach to boost faster turnaround and updates. 

In addition, UX testing is mostly done at the end of the product development cycle, where feedbacks are gathered, and user testing goes way beyond the validation process. 

With Agile, it is now possible to set up a usability testing script in 10 minutes or less and received feedback as well. 

More room for experimentation

Most applications these days are not made in a static fashion. They need to be dynamic and should keep on evolving.

In light of this, a lot of team experimentation is needed to ensure that the user experience keeps on changing and improvising. 

This is not possible in the traditional user testing method. 

On the other hand, Agile is very flexible and offers testers to experiment and explore new ways to make the user experience better and more appealing for its target users.

Helps perceive the target persona

Business agility is important when it comes to product development. You need to ensure that the product you are developing is based on the user’s research and expectations. 

This is achieved by reviewing the user research and feedback gathered and for making constant iterations. Agile enables teams to keep referring to business needs and objectives. 

Faster feedback and more innovation

UX testing combined with an Agile methodology makes user testing and development cycles shorter and faster. 

This means that the feedback received is faster and can be incorporated effectively within the application. 

This enables a wider scope of taking innovative steps, making the application more trendy, modern, and receptive for the end-users. 

Agile UX best practices

Test often, and in small batches

Usability testing is a lengthy and expensive process so oftentimes, this method is only conducted once or twice during the entire product design development. Since UX testing is often done at the end of the product development cycle, the feedback gathered is often used mainly for “validation” than “explanatory” reasons. 

With the Agile method combined, it is now possible to conduct user tests in 5 minutes and receive qualitative graphic responses (in the form of web recording, screen recording, audio recording, along with other quantitative data) within a few hours. You can add the customer or user to the Agile software development feedback loop. 

You may also run user testing for every sprint or every design and development iteration. This iteration process lessens the risk of putting together a completed prototype just to realize that there is a flaw in the design, which should have been dealt with in the early stages of product development.  

There is no need to run a test with large sample testing sets. The rule of the thumb in UX is for 5 participants going through the qualitative picture-in-picture recording session allows uncovering 80% of the usability and user experience issues in a design.

Conduct research, model, and design upfront

This may be in contrast with how Agile works but some companies conduct up-front user research and modeling that are successful in getting results from personas, workflow models, and task analysis.

However, it is also important to take note that the timeframe for these tasks is compressed by:

  • Prioritizing the types of users researched to the highest priority, which shortens the amount of time spent with users of lower priority
  • Conducting quick modeling in light and collaborative way, which also involves other development team members to help analyze and construct time-consuming models
  • Deferring the less urgent research to be completed while the product is being developed

 All these occur within weeks and not months. A lot of organizations were successful at packaging and leveraging user research across projects to shorten the time between initial concept and starting development. 

UX practitioners should be able to leverage the time while the organization is finding production staff like developers and testers to begin the research and modeling.

Observe who is testing your product

It is very important that you have your target person in mind as it helps you look at your product through the eyes of your customers. 

Since it is impossible to fully immerse yourself as the customer, you can conduct online remote testing to observe your customers and get the best feedback about your product. 

There are a lot of remote online user testing tools that you can utilize to record the customers’ screens and audio. 

You can verify your target person through these tests and better understand their contextual environment as they interact with your user interface or answer your questions. 

Remember, getting user feedback about your product is great, however, it is even better if the feedback from your participants matches your target persona. 

Moderated, unmoderated, and hybrid

Moderated user testing used to be the norm for lab-based user testing. As new technologies emerged, UX practitioners and researchers have found better ways to conduct moderated sessions through remote, online, using screen sharing platforms and more. 

And because of the emergence of these tools and technology, a UX researcher can now easily manage hundreds or even thousands of tests, anywhere and in a short period of time for a little cost. 

Unlike the moderated usability testing, it was not possible to adapt the unmoderated test script based on the user feedback and actions of the users.

This problem was resolved through conditional logic or also known as branching or skipping logic. Using advanced UX testing platforms, you can now conduct a hybrid approach that has scalability, speed, and economics of unmoderated user testing, with personalization of moderated user testing by leveraging branching logic. 

When branching logic is applied to a task or question in the testing script, it redirects the participant to a new task or question, depending on the response to the first task or question. Branching logic can help replace the moderator’s role by creating a custom set of instructions for different participants depending on their actions.

Include the team in UX activities

When it comes to successful Agile UX projects, it is important for everyone to have good communication and close collaboration. The UX team can be the catalyst for fostering productive collaboration by including development team members in brainstorming activities. This is one great way to increase the quality of solutions.

This approach gives everyone an understanding of the research and design and helps keep all design processes transparent. 

Start with at least one sprint ahead but be supportive

Working ahead of the development sprint buys designers some time to test assumptions with real users. It also allows the entire team to identify potential problems before the design is ready for the sprint.

However, even though the design is done before the sprint, UX research and UX designers should stay supportive and advise the Agile teams during the ongoing sprint to make proper adjustments when needed.

Fail fast; iterate with many options

Fail fast and fail often is one of the business mantras of Silicon Valley. Applying this mantra in Agile UX means that you do not need to be perfect. You can test ideas quickly, catch flaws early and correct them. 

Many UX professionals are in favor of the RITE method- rapid iterative user testing and evaluation. It starts with a prototype that is tested repeatedly and evaluated (based on the user feedback) at different stages of the design process to eliminate usability flaws before the launch. 

This method is the simplest and most cost-effective process because you can keep going for many iterations as the budget allows. 

There will be situations where that it takes time to design and validate a feature. Agile development timebox is coming whether you like it or not. Most of the time, developer team will continue working on software while the design and validation are still ongoing. 

To buy time, it is typical to buy get the chunks of work that are technically difficult, but trivial from an interaction design perspective.  

Form a user validation group for continuous user validation

There are a lot of UX practitioners who create a pool of users they collaborate with in validating a design before and after it’s built. This validation team should be large enough, so the design does not have to call the same people repeatedly every week. 

Efficient analysis

In Agile UX where time is short, you also need to get your analysis done quickly. Quickly launching a UX test is just part of the equation. You also need to review and analyze the results and make decisions in a timely manner.  

You need to make sure that the user research testing platform should provide you with the right tools that quickly review participants’ sessions, leverage search, time-stamped, and other functions that help you efficiently do your job in the quickest time possible.

Benchmark your product

Learning about how your users engage with your product is one way to ensure a positive customer experience. But equally important is to see how your product compares to your competitors.

This is where benchmarking is needed. You should benchmark your prototype designs against each other, against existing production assets, and against your competitors. This allows you to identify additional opportunity areas to improve the usability design of your product to get that good customer experience. 

The best way to do this is by pre-formatted system usability scale questions with automatic calculations of the resulting score. You may also utilize comparison metrics like net promoter score, time on task, and so on, which allow you to quantitatively measure your usability and user experience UX against different design iterations.


Final thoughts

While some companies see UX research and design as something that can be removed or reduced budget-wise, more and more companies are learning that there is no substitute for investing in a proper UX team and process. 

You have to ask if this question matters to you, “What if we are building something that no one wants to us?” 

Agile UX is definitely something to look into when we aim to build the right product for the customer, improve the customer experience and satisfaction, and test and develop more features based on the customer’s needs.  

The best practices for Agile UX are also needed as you need to realize that it is quite a challenge for UX and Agile to work together. As a UX professional, you may find yourself struggling with Agile as typical Agile processes do not take into account the research time, resources, and scope that UX professionals need to do to deliver great human-centered design. 

Despite this, Agile and UX can co-exist if the management fully understands and supports UX work, if UX professionals display leadership and spend some time to collaborate effectively with colleagues, if the Agile workflows are flexible to accommodate UX needs, and if the UX team can be a part of the product teams so they can build respect and rapport with the developers.

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Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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