Agile and User Experience

The company I work for has an evolving agile implementation methodology, specifically Scrum. Over the last two months, the User Experience team has been becoming more of an integrated part of this process. It’s been quite an interesting ride and it is far from over.

I’m actually a process person. I enjoy figuring out how to tackle problems and I recognize that the same process rarely works for two different situations. However, I never quite realized how much of a safety net the waterfall process was. While no project uses the ‘ideal’ process, the many possible steps and variations form a comfortable foundation that is the basis for improvisation. There are different activities and deliverables that answer different questions and needs and these form the toolkit that I have drawn on over the past decade.

Agile is very different. While project needs and user needs haven’t changed, how you can approach the problem from within an agile context is very different. Thankfully, there are some smart people who have paved the way, but there are few clear answers. UE wasn’t at the origin of agile and we are a little late to the game.

I certainly won’t say that anything we are doing is definitive, but I will share some of our struggles and what I’ve taken away from it.

Are you ‘agile’? What works and what doesn’t?

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1 comment on “Agile and User Experience”

  1. Deanna Reply

    Hey Jeremy,

    It’s good to see you tackling this subject. Last year I wrote about my experience with the agile process from a designer perspective. I’ve slowly come around to the idea but there are still many caveats.

    It seems to me that if the agile process is put upon UX (and I include visual design in this) as a way for development to get around the perceived bottleneck that UX creates for them, then the whole team will struggle and ultimately fail.

    If, however, everyone is working from a well conceived playbook and has a strong vision, then agile can be very powerful.

    Emily Chang wrote a great article about the agile design process. She lists core principals that really sum it up:

    Core principles of Agile Web Design
    – Design the system not the surface
    – Design as evolutionary and user-driven
    – There is no page, only pathways
    – Rapid and iterative over final
    – Simplicity over complexity
    – Collaborative and open design

    Link to article:

    I hope you keep writing about your experience as it evolves. I am no longer a big fan of Waterfall because I think it ultimately fails the user. User testing comes in way too late in the process, whereas an iterative approach allows refinement that includes user input.

    Ok, there are my scattered-before-coffee-its-too-early-thought. 🙂


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