How to Do User Research Within Constraints

The most common response I get is that there isn’t enough time dedicated to research in the current development process.

If U.S. designers and teams are working in an agile or scrum framework, it may seem daunting to try and fit in an adequate amount of research. Another common response is that there are no dedicated researchers on the team while having a dedicated researcher is ideal. It’s not a possibility for every team. How can we still do research while working within these constraints when we don’t have enough time specifically carved out for research? We have to get creative with the time that we do have to make sure we’re facing our UX and design decisions on actual data. If you are the sole U.S. professional on your team and you’re juggling between research, architecture and visual design, you may consider taking some time that you normally spend on one aspect and focusing on research instead. For example, cut down the time you would normally spend doing high fidelity mockups and try lower fidelity artifacts. Instead, consider the purpose of the artifact to give you a better idea of why you’re creating it. If the artifact is intended for the team to use for development and you already have an established style guide or design system, your team doesn’t need a pixel perfect mockup. Avoid those unnecessary silos and handoffs in your process as much as possible. The time you save can be spent on your research phase, which will help the accuracy of your artifacts in the long run. If you don’t have a dedicated researcher on your team, try bringing your team members into the research process. These can be developers, product owners, quality assurance or even other U.S. designers. Having multiple perspectives in your process is an added bonus that will make your data more well-rounded to avoid exhausting your team members with more meetings. Take advantage of the meetings you currently have in your process. For example, if you’re in a planning session with your entire team, carve out some time at the beginning of that meeting to discuss research items. You may find that over time your team will be more invested in the users of your product and will keep them in mind while creating new features.

There will always be constraints that we have to work in. Keep refining your process, starting with these tips until it works for you and your team.

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