Rolling or Rapid Research programs help teams get consistent UX insights throughout product development

Team laying out post it notes on a glass wall

Posted by AnswerLab Research on Nov 9, 2023

Originally published on Aug 9, 2019, updated November 2023

Rolling research programs, also called Rapid Research programs, can be an invaluable asset in your UX research toolkit. These programs employ regularly scheduled research sessions to generate a consistent stream of insights and inform design decisions without the often onerous ramp up time of one-off studies. With swift and easily duplicated research sessions, this process fits into a regular cadence, such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and ties directly into the product development lifecycle.

Iterative and fast moving, rapid research programs can help teams prioritize research on a set schedule and frequency. 

There are a number of ways to structure and implement rolling programs read about one example at AnswerLab where we built a complex rapid program for one of our clients consisting of 20+ studies in under a year.

But before you can design your program, you may need to make the case for it. So, how does rapid research provide value to your team in ways other research can’t?

The Top Benefits of Rolling UX Research Programs

  1. One-time set-up cost. Continuous insights.

    Creating a rapid research program begins with a one-time set-up to begin the process, which saves time, resources, and cost in the long-run. At the start, you establish the cadence and recruiting demographic, confirm researcher availability, schedule the sessions, and from there, you can keep research on the calendar long-term with minimal logistical effort and additional cost. Once research is scheduled out, Design and Product teams have a regular deadline they can work towards for rolling testing, which helps ensure they’re on track for research.

  2. Consistent feedback on a quick turnaround

    Having research on a regular schedule gives you consistent feedback on existing stimuli and can support an agile development cycle. As soon as a team has something built that needs testing, the research program is ready to accommodate them. There’s no need for set-up, and because it’s pre-scheduled and organized, any delay is minimal. If teams are working on smaller, tactical design decisions, they can use a rolling research program to get user feedback where they normally wouldn’t, and do so in small batches as they iterate.

  3. Keeping findings more digestible

    Sometimes large findings reports from big studies can be chock full of findings and recommendations, leaving stakeholders questioning where to start and what to prioritize. Oftentimes, smaller, but equally important, insights get overshadowed by the few that are most dominant and obvious. Rapid research helps spread out the delivery of findings to stakeholders over time, creating a more consistent research-centric culture. Each study often leaves you with a handful of key findings and clear next steps to take into the next iteration.

rolling timeline-2
Examples of regimented verses a more flexible schedule.

Effective Ways to Employ Rapid UX Research

Here are a few scenarios where we’ve seen rolling research used effectively, making UX teams more efficient and increasing their impact within their organizations.

Fitting into an agile development cycle

The classic example of a rolling program is pairing a research schedule with an agile development cycle. If you have fast moving product teams, rapid research can help designers build research into their design process much more feasibly. Sometimes it can be difficult to prioritize research during an existing schedule, so having pre-scheduled sessions can help teams get timely feedback as they go, rather than slowing down development cycles to plan, execute, and reflect on research studies.

Clearing the backlog

We all know what it’s like to have more research requests than time. AnswerLab has worked with clients who had significant backlogs of research requests. With too many pieces to test and no time to invest in creating a research study for each one, many teams can’t find ways to get through their stack of designs. By creating a rapid research program, we’ve helped clients create structured and systematic ways to work through their backlogs. Not only did the teams complete their research, but rolling programs also increased desire for and the value placed on research by teams and leadership.

Making space for larger, strategic projects

Rapid research programs can be helpful for testing small tactical pieces while making room for larger, more in-depth projects. Investing in the one-time cost of setting up a rapid research program allows you to test small design decisions quickly and easily, while investing more of your time in the strategic discovery projects. Rolling programs can clear the tables, ensuring your team handles less of the set-up and prep for smaller research pieces and give them more capacity to work on bigger projects.

Supporting multiple teams

We’ve seen rolling programs provide value to UX groups who need to support multiple teams at once. In some cases, a different team might test their designs each week of the month. Or, let’s say if you have one-hour sessions, you might offer smaller subsections of that one-hour slot to a range of product teams.

Perhaps, a team has a small button decision that doesn’t warrant a full session but needs a quick response. Multiple teams can share one session, allowing smaller questions to be answered for several teams quickly without them having to worry about filling an entire session with content. This also ensures things that wouldn’t normally get tested still get user attention and feedback.

Top Considerations for Building an Effective Rolling Research Program

To ensure your rapid research program is effective, prioritize the following:

1. Maintain consistency in your questions, structure, and recruiting tactics

First, make sure your questions are clear, simple, and relevant to the users you’re interviewing. By keeping your recruiting criteria, demographics, and structure consistent through each round, you cut out excess time needed to recruit hard-to-reach participants and alter your questions, deliverables, and strategy. If you know your one demographic well, you can continue to execute your Research Operations work with less effort. Just make sure you’re prioritizing inclusive recruiting in the process!

2. Keep stakeholders on time

The biggest hurdle for rolling research is ensuring stakeholders and designers get their designs in on schedule. Be rigorous with timelines by setting up a system to ensure designs and questions are collected swiftly, for example, an online form or simply a spreadsheet everyone can edit. Have a set schedule for your research and get it on stakeholders’ calendars far in advance.

3. Encourage stakeholders to participate in research

With rapid research, the deliverable for each study is lighter due to the fast pace. Because stakeholders receive less information in the final report, the deliverable can sometimes be harder to follow if they don’t see any of the sessions. Having stakeholders observe the research live can make all the difference in how they understand and interpret the findings.


Read how we built a Rapid Research program for an energy client to help them iterate on prototypes and refine their online interface ahead of an anticipated launch date.

Written by

AnswerLab Research

The AnswerLab research team collaborates on articles to bring you the latest UX trends and best practices.

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