UX and Agile : How to integrate Design Research in the Agile process?

Experience Design Academy
5 min readFeb 9, 2024


The Agile Manifesto embraces the concept of perpetual beta, asserting that software should be developed within a continuous loop of improvements for the end user, ensuring that the released product is valid enough. This concept aligns with the iterative nature of design. The only difference is that with design, this state is maintained throughout the project’s duration, whereas in Agile, it persists throughout the software lifecycle.

Matt Cooper-Wright, 2016

This reflection prompts the following interrogatives: what is the Minimum Valuable Product (MVP) that can be released? How do we determine what features and when they can be released, and how do design research and product development intersect and collaborate in synergy? Is there any conflict?

This dynamic exploration was witnessed by our guest speakers:

What is Agile? Best Practices from Spark Reply — Mattia Messali & Filippo Gaifami

Agile, born in 2000, is an iterative, flexible software development approach that prioritizes collaboration, adaptability, and continuous improvement. It breaks down development into smaller cycles (sprints) for quick responses and incremental, high-quality results. Despite its apparent simplicity, many organizations struggle with it. The evolution of this methodology from the 2000s to today reflects changes in the vastly different and more complex software development landscape.

Classic Agile Approach presented by Mattia Messali & Filippo Gaifami

Key learnings from diverse projects are summarized in four bullets, tailored to address each client’s unique challenges, needs, and goals:

  1. Hijack the workflow
    Adapt your workflow to fit the mission and the characteristics of the project. Personalize it to align with your timeline and goals.
  2. Work with the team, not against it
    Human collaboration is key for optimal results. Transparency in information and processes is crucial: Designers should be open and participate in meetings beyond their immediate commitments to stay updated also on product development.
  3. Evangelize UX upwards
    Emphasize that UX is not an obstacle, but a crucial discipline for product development. Understand the maturity level of the consulting firm and adapt accordingly to stress the importance of UX research to decision-makers.
  4. Write your own user stories
    Delve into your product’s UX, question assumptions made at the beginning of the design process. Write your own user stories, according to the user needs, even in complex organizations with a vertical structure.

Together, these best practices enable us to develop a product that continuously tests assumptions through UX study, make sure that the product is feasible, and enters the market robustly, avoiding common development pitfalls at project completion.

User Research in Agile process: how many attempts before succeeding? — Elisabetta Olgiati & Marco Miramondi

When a stakeholder requests to research something, it’s because the issue is complex; if it was easy, they wouldn’t ask. Typically, the matter is urgent and though it may seem limited in scope, it’s not clearly defined. Further exploration often reveals that the initial problem, though appearing narrow, actually has broader implications. As a researcher, the initial task is to understand and rephrase the question, as it’s usually more extensive, requiring further investigation. Handling this complexity, we face a dichotomy: Agile encourages fragmentation, whereas Research operates in the opposite direction. Moreover, Research encompasses interviews, focus groups, and usability tests, both in-person and remotely, potentially structured in a canvas format. Hard to fit within an Agile context.

How to integrate Design Research in the Agile process?

  • Problems with Strategic Research
    It aligns with the traditional design process, preceding the concept generation phase (identifying user’s needs, goals and pain points etc.)
    Difficulties in finding the research questions, engaging the right participants, conducting tests, and transforming results into actionable insights within sprints timeline.
  • Problems with Tactic Research
    Concise and contained, it necessitates a clear problem and needs to be solved quickly, usually solved through User Testing & Validation. In every sprint, a seemingly small test request might actually reference a more significant problem, perhaps tied to the concept rather than the tested UI.

TeamSystem experimented with various methods. Ultimately, they reached a well-balanced compromise that involved continuous Strategic Research throughout the entire product lifecycle, conducted on a weekly basis. The interviews were centered around exploratory topics arising from the concerns of all stakeholders. The insights gathered from these interviews were subsequently discussed in co-designed sessions, inclusive of all stakeholders and facilitated by designers. These insights were then translated into tangible improvements for the product. Tactic Research is then done at the end of the release of the features, and the insights are also discussed in the co-design session.

Summary of the tentatives and failures looking for a balance

These lectures were held during the 34th UX Talk organized by POLI.design’s Experience Design Academy. Follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram to be updated about the upcoming UX Talks, which are always open to the public.

Curated by Alice Paracolli



Experience Design Academy

A polytechnic centre of excellence dedicated to User Experience - by POLI.design.