Managing Agile User Experience

Including UX in the Agile process can pose a threat to the integrity of usability.  As UX professionals, we have a responsibility to work holistically, to see the bigger picture and create cohesive, integrated experiences. Research and analysis can be incredibly time consuming. Attempting to fit UX into short sprints could easily result in less involved research and disjointed user experiences.

Agile lends itself perfectly to development. There’s more transparency regarding requirements, bugs/issues are identified early, it’s conducive to continual integration and features are delivered fast. So, in no uncertain terms, Agile is here to stay!

Can Agile and UX work together? Of course, but the solution will never be a ‘one size fits all’, and will need to be iterated upon until harmony is found.

As Agile teams work together, building relationships and establishing expectations, their velocity will level and become more predictable. Adding UX to this well oiled machine will dramatically impact the velocity because the whole workflow will need to be reestablished. It might be a bumpy ride to start with, but no more so than when Agile was initially implemented.

Here are a few really simple tips on how to successfully add UX to the Agile process:

  • Assign story points to usability, research, persona creation and interaction design
  • Have the UX team work one sprint ahead of the development team. This is called a parallel track approach.
  • Schedule regular user testing into the sprint, the same way you would schedule Prioritisation or Retrospective.
  • Add a “sprint zero” so that a coherent vision of the project as a whole can be addressed

Many User Experience practises easily lend themselves to Agile principles. We too can work fast and iterate quickly. Paper prototyping can assist in identifying successful workflows quickly and effectively. We only need to test on 5 users to identify 85% of usability problems. Online services are available to have designs tested at any point in the sprint. Heuristic evaluations are a quick and simple sanity check. However, when working in such a rapid environment, we must be cautious not to lose sight of the bigger picture. We must also ensure that sufficient time and attention is assigned to the creation of personas, user journeys and any other necessary usability artefacts.

 

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