Lean UX Research: Quick, but Not Dirty

In  my previous posts, I discussed why you should conduct lean UX research to induce great user experience through Agile development and how to do this. Some of you might be concerned with a lack of quality insight in lean UX research. I’ll address the concern in this post.

“Lean” Doesn’t Mean Poor Quality

Lean UX research quality

Many people, especially UX and market researchers, fear that in conducting research the “lean” way we gain speediness at the cost of quality. Speaking from personal experience, I find the fear unfounded. If anything, the fear reveals a deeply rooted misconception of quality.

Quality of UX research is not about research deliverables – polished research report and pretty PowerPoint presentation graphics – it’s all about the quality of the product and the kind of user experienced resulted. Defined as such, the lean UX research approach leads to higher quality because we can more effectively influence product teams in producing great products this way.

This is, of course, given that we’re thoughtful about research methodology – interviewing target users, asking relevant questions, taking great care in extracting user insight, and making actionable recommendations.

Case study:

 Most of my recent user research projects were lean UX research conducted to support iterative product design and launch. Whereas we shortened the planning and data analysis timeframe, I was able to consistently influence the teams based on the research findings. End result: We’ve seen measurable improvements in user engagement, reflected in behavioral metrics and subjective user feedback. That’s what we care about when it comes to quality of research.

“Lean” Doesn’t Mean Lack of Strategy

A common sentiment I heard is: Will the Agile process undermine strategic consumer/customer research and long-term planning? The answer is: Not at all! – If you do this the right way.

Please remember that the Agile process is and will continue to be a software development process, not a strategic planning process. User researchers should continue to partner with strategic decision makers within the company to plan and conduct strategic research. And, that process should happen before the software development even kicks off. The strategic research and lean UX research are not mutually exclusive – actually, you can find lots of synergy by combining the two approaches.

Case study:

When I was conducting iPhone app usability evaluation in support of an Agile development process, I was at the same time helping a mobile steering committee develop a long-term strategy in defining the next steps of the mobile app road map, leveraging strategic UX research and analysis I did. End result: The two efforts converged nicely later in the process, where the successful iPhone app launch benefited from the agile usability testing and contained the product features informed by the long-term strategy.


At first glance, the Agile process poses challenges to conducting UX research. Some might even think  UX research is no longer relevant under this new development model. But looking closer, you’ll see that this actually presents much more opportunities for leveraging UX research to actually achieve visible business results. As long as product teams commit themselves to listening to user feedback, having open communication within the team, staying responsive in leveraging user insight, and adopting some of the techniques mentioned above, they will be able to conduct and benefit UX research in this new environment.

By Frank Guo




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *