Skip to content

Want More “Agile” Qualitative Research? Take it Remote.

Working with the agile methodology or at a company where stakeholders use sprints? Learn how to make your research faster with pro tips from Carrie Yury and Kirsten Lewis.

Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Emi Tolibas

Carrie Yury (Yuryka) and Kristen Lewis (Sonos) don’t take shortcuts.

They’re committed to deep, in-context, qualitative, UX research. They dig into the kind of data that takes time to gather and collect.

So did they why spend a webinar telling us how to break the research cycle into two-week brackets?

Answer: Agile. The ever-expanding workplace framework is changing the way we research, and what it takes to engage our teams.

Here are their top tips for capturing rich qualitative data on a speedy Agile timeline—plus a glimpse into how you can use dscout to reconcile “lean” workflows with thick data.

Sprint, collaborate and listen.

Agile’s core principles are: hypothesize, test, and implement.

Doing these things well requires involving many—from researchers, designers, and product managers, to stakeholders and customer success folks. The more people involved, the greater the collective knowledge and the sharper the response reflex when data begins rolling in.

And when you have tight deadlines to meet, you might need to expand your definition of the title “researcher.” Making qualitative, contextual research more accessible not only saves you time—it empowers your teammates, creating a shared vision of (and commitment to) the iteration’s outcomes.

How Carrie and Kirsten approach research in a sprint cycle, as shared in their webinar on agile qualitative research.

Getting it done with dscout:

Adding collaborators is as simple as clicking and entering an email. Use permission levels (Viewer or Member) to set guardrails for engagement, keeping your team focused and empowered. Don’t be shy about adding stakeholders—they’ll see the power of context firsthand as they watch videos, read open-ends, and check summary statistics of the data. Bookmark noteworthy moments to direct their attention.

Need to get them involved further? With dscout Diary, “doing research” is as simple as a “Show me…” statement, followed by questions for probing. For example, “Show me moments when technology fights you, and answer these questions each time: Capture a video of the moment. Where are you? What could be better? How did you resolve the issue?

Recruit smart, recruit fast.

Recruitment is one of the most important, and the most challenging, parts of merging Agile with user research. Carrie and Kirsten recommend ongoing, rolling recruitment—so that when questions arise, qualified participants are at-the-ready.

But the setbacks from poor recruiting and the delays caused by unengaged recruits make ensuring participant quality as important as ever.

One way to whittle down to the right recruits, quickly: Ask open-ended, closed-ended, scale questions. If you’re recruiting and researching remotely—include rich media questions that require photo and video responses.

If, for example, you’re prototyping a VR gaming app, ask potential participants to turn their phones around and “show” you where they game and why. In this way, you’re not only recruiting, you’re testing hypotheses along the way. As the iteration unfolds, go back to the screener application pool for new scouts to test your new hypotheses.

Getting it done with dscout:

With dscout Recruit, you can easily keep recruiting rolling. A screener can stay open for the duration of your iteration, giving you access to hundreds or (if your targets are wide enough) thousands of scouts. And because all dscout screeners are fully customizable, you can program questions that help you quickly filter to scouts primed for your iteration’s needs.

Above and beyond the quantity of scouts you stand to recruit are the quality of each submission. With Recruit, you can program a mix of open-ended, closed-ended, scale, and multimedia questions. Probe on foundational questions in the screener, which your team can then use to inform the research activity.

Doing flexible, "in-the-field" research, from the office.

During their work with Sonos, Carrie and Kirsten needed to leverage a wide variety of study types: shop-a-longs, in-homes, ethnography, digital prototype testing, self-guided, etc.

In the pre-agile environment, there was time to conduct those in-person. Now, translating “in-the-field” tactics into a remote research environment is paramount.

Also essential to Agile: the capacity to pivot, and analyze quickly. Agile is called Agile for a reason. Staying loose, nimble, and reflexive is key to working within a constantly changing landscape.

And when it comes time to make sense of that landscape, make sure to choose a platform for data collection that makes it easy to cull, code, export, transcribe, and synthesize your results.

Getting it done with dscout:  

Researchers using dscout Diary can employ a broad toolkit—especially vital as the deadlines tighten. Access several templates based on our most popular designs, like unboxings, shop-alongs, and journeys. The platform is built for flexibility. Start by sketching the questions you’d like to see, then anchor it to a “Show me…” statement for triggering/priming participants to pop open the app. With mobile moments, you’re there when you can’t be, whether that’s in the app, in the aisle, or at home with the family.

Need to switch things up? Research activities are broken into Parts—and you can create Parts within a mission as you’re collecting data. This means you and your team have time to modify, edit, or even create new Parts based on what you’re seeing in live entries. Need to drill into more personas? Cool—build that into a Part. Want fewer open-ends in the next round—delete a Part.

dscout offers in-platform tools to make data tagging and analysis easy—keeping your team focused and your data centralized. From open-ended frequencies, quick quant, to powerful filtering, dscout does more than get you the moments—it helps make sense of them, too.

Make sense of your 1-on-1s (without wasting time on logistics)

Once you're confident you have the depth of data you need—you’ll want to focus on what you can report on, and what will be actionable for your stakeholders. Carrie and Kirsten distill their results into "Minimum Viable Findings,” and overarching “experience principles” that make decision-making more user-focused.

This may require a few follow-ups, or a bit of gut-checking. So reach back out to your pre-screened participants for a quick 1:1. Whether it’s a debrief, co-creation session, home tours, or unboxing—interviews let you validate findings, and dig even deeper into the context of your users’ lives

Getting it done with dscout: 

For a quick way to conduct 1:1 interviews within a two-week iteration cycle, consider dscout’s Live tool for remote interviewing. Because it handles scheduling, transcription, screen sharing, stim boards, and observers, you’re spending less time managing and more time talking with your users. Run a Live mission right along with your Diary ones, using the same participants!

Summing it up

Using Agile within your research practice will lead you to involve others, juggle methods/approaches, and seek centrality in platforms. With dscout, your team can capture more context, depth, and qualitative data in less time than traditionally, all while obtaining more authentic, honest, "real" feedback from your users.

For more insights on Agile research from Carrie and Kirsten, stream the on-demand webinar.

Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

Subscribe To People Nerds

A weekly roundup of interviews, pro tips and original research designed for people who are interested in people

The Latest