How other startups are informing agile software development with continuous user insights

At Avvo, our product development team continues to understand and learn about the importance of conducting user research. Thanks in large part to our UX Research Manager, Jackie Magwire, we have built in processes where we are conducting usability testing regularly with additional on-going generative research taking place at any given time. Yet, according to the most recent industry survey done by, 58% of companies are only conducting research on a quarterly or less frequent pace.

To learn how other companies are informing their development regularly, I invited Rebecca Destello (friend since grad school) and her co-worker Justin Marx to present to our UX team about their approach called, "Witness Wednesdays".

Rebecca and Justin work for Atlas Informatics, a startup set out to redefine the way we search as we know it, and doing some really cool stuff. Before Atlas, these two worked together at Nordstrom, where Rebecca led user research and Justin was a Principal UX Designer. In their presentation, they provided tips on how to plan, conduct, analyze and inform development sprints in just one week with what became known as "Witness Wednesdays."

Their talk covered how it is possible to embed user insights into a rapid software development cycle by conducting usability studies, breaking the stereotype that "research takes too long." Acknowledging that designers need the opportunity iteratively validate assumptions, validation that is fast enough to keep up with Agile, and ultimately have a body of research upon which to base future assumptions, their approach was to perform RITE+agile usability weekly.

The benefits from using the RITE method weekly was that it allowed them to rapidly build an understanding around a product or feature and encouraged their organization to build MVPs and test risky assumptions. Rebecca and Justin did acknowledge that a downside to this method was that the analysis usually wasn't as thorough and that subtle issues can be harder to discover.

It is always super interesting to learn firsthand how other teams are addressing issues and learning how to be smarter, faster, and better about their users. It was really great to have the opportunity to swap stories.

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