Allaland

UX and Agile

Posted on: February 26, 2009

There has recently been a lot of discussion in the UX field about Agile and how we can integrate our work into the process.

Here are some interesting discussions:
Agile & UX on IxDA List
Leah Buley’s post on Burndowns and Flareups in Agile

In my experience working in an Agile environment at THE_GROOP, I feel like Agile can work, but it ultimately depends on your constraints – clients, time, and resources.

What Works:

  • Having a Sprint 0 for UX strategy/research before design and development. This is the time for ideation, sketching, and research. This strategy phase is vital to providing the ground work for the rest of the project.
  • Writing out the tasks that need to be completed per sprint, and including iteration as one of the tasks. This allows the designer to get both a broad view and detailed view of the project. It is incredibly helpful to lay out all the tasks that need to be done in a concrete way. By going through this activity (however painful and tedious), it forces you to see what you *don’t know* upfront and then plan accordingly. This is also a good time to talk to other stakeholders and figure out how much documentation is necessary. If the developers don’t want an annotated wireframe, then don’t build it into the schedule.
  • If you do the Sprint scheduling with other stakeholders like visual designers and developers, it is really easy to coordinate activities, find out where we can all work in parallel, and also surface the dependencies.
  • Burning down at the end of each day feels great (for UX as well!) You also quickly learn how long it actually takes you to do things, so that you can estimate better on the next sprint.

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Clients often want to see progress each day/week. Once they see initial design ideas, they have a difficult time letting go (no matter how rough the sketch). This makes it VERY difficult to iterate, or “throw away” designs.
  • Aside from clients, time constraints often also restrict design iteration. Unlike code, which could potentially be thrown away and written in any number of ways to do the same thing (with most clients non-the- wiser), design is much more “sticky” because it is so visual. Once you start on a path, you are pretty much forced to continue going down that road. It is almost impossible to completely throw out a design that “just didn’t work” and start from scratch. This is especially true since developers and designers are dependent on the UX work to move forward, so once the ball is rolling, its hard to stop.
  • There is practically no time for user research/testing after Sprint 0. You basically have to fit it in guerrilla style (after work or during lunch utilizing fellow co-workers), which doesn’t give you great results or confidence

In general, the visibility of UX work makes it very difficult to generate new ideas, conduct proper testing, and iterate on designs. However, it does force the designer to plan ahead, and get to know themselves a bit better. I do believe agile can work for UX, but perhaps a modified version that takes some of the problems into account.

I am still going to be thinking and developing my ideas about this topic as time goes on, but these are my initial impressions. Will be interesting to see how things change over time!

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2 Responses to "UX and Agile"

Thanks for writing this, I’ve been scouring the web for info on how scrum/agile and the ux process can play nice. Do you have any further links or thoughts on this since this Feb. posting?

I have been keeping my eye out for discussions about this topic, but nothing substantial has come up recently. You might want to dig through the archives of ixda.org to see what other people think.

If you let me know about your specific situation/problem, I might be able to dig up a few more resources for you, or at least give my 2 cents :)

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Alla Zollers

I design products and services that just. make. sense.

When products make sense, customers are happy.

If customer are happy, they sign-up, stay on site, engage, share, and buy your product or service.

Happy customers allow companies to profit in both senses of the word.

I provide the following services:

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