The Contradiction Between Agile and UX Research

Executive Summary

  • Agile is used to justify shortening development timelines.
  • This typically ends up undermining UX research.


Management has latched onto Agile to shorten timelines under the false concept that they are doing something advanced. One of the first things to be disregarded and minimized under the Agile method (as employed in practice is UX research.

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How The Minimization of UX Research Occurs Under Agile

How this is done is explained in the following quotation from NNg.

My latest interviews with Agile team members reveal that most teams are not performing user research on their concepts or designs. Respondents cited time constraints and lack of UX resources among the top reasons for this trend.

Lack of user research could also happen with any product development model, including waterfall. Regardless of the method, organizations are shipping products without knowing their true value to the customer. It doesn’t matter how many products we release. If they’re junk, we’re simply shipping a lot more of it.

..the mantra “Design, build, launch, measure,” commonly chanted by Lean converts, can be misleading. It assumes that a product must be coded and launched for systems to be tested with users and measurements taken. This is a misconception.

There is an apparent reason for this — which is that Agile is so focused on speed of development.


Agile is a problem for UX research. UX research is about planned analysis which is then incorporated into the development process. This is how Agile often impacts UX testing, but it does not have to be this way. It takes a small number of users or test subjects to obtain feedback. We reduce the time it takes to obtain this information by not having observers on the test sessions but allowing them to provide feedback from the recorded video. Agile often means that UX researchers need to be more prepared to perform their tests when new developments come available. Agile provides little time until the next set of iterations to development occurs.