29 November 2007

Tips for integrating user experience and agile development

Be the first to share

Agile UX
At last week’s 7-Minute Soapbox in Waterloo, Canada, Declan Whelan of Whelan & Associates talked about how to fit user experience/design/usability into an agile development process.

There is a crisis in the software world! Well, I’m not sure if you can call something a crisis when it has been going on for more than 15 years — but let’s call it that. The annual CHAOS reports first released by the Standish group in 1994 showed that in the US about one third of software projects are cancelled and about one half are 200% over budget. The bottom line: annual direct costs of such software failures are estimated at $140 billion.

Many companies responded to this by imposing stronger process control mechanisms with comprehensive documentation and formalized hand-offs between functional groups. This has worked in some domains but has failed badly in others. I believe that plan-driven, waterfall methodologies may be applicable when the human costs or capital costs of failure dominate — such as nuclear reactor safety systems or international space stations. But such processes foster functional silos and formalized communications which can actually make the situation worse. Worse, because such processes struggle to keep pace with technology changes and competitive pressures.<

The agile community offers an alternate approach. Put together a cross-functional team including the key product stakeholder, developers, interaction designers, Q/A, project managers, and so on. Have them work together from requirements through to functioning software on a weekly basis. Empower them to choose the tools and processes that work best for them. This is really a tough way to produce software — but it works.

Now how does traditional user experience fit in with all this? I see three key challenges:

  • Agile teams focus on stakeholders, designers focus on users.
  • Agile teams focus on technical issues, designers focus on usability.
  • Agile teams focus on modeling just-in-time, designers model up-front.

There is a tremendous opportunity to close the gap between these perspectives and I offer a few suggestions for an interaction designer on an agile team:

  • Infuse user experience issues and approaches into the team — train them, let them know your world.
  • Be the user advocate and lobbyist, especially with the product stakeholder.
  • Use personas — make them physically visible and make sure they are present as the actor in every agile user story.
  • Introduce user experience guidelines — good agile teams will follow them if you can show the value.
  • Do just-enough user experience modeling — look for minor course corrections rather than Eureka moments.
  • Use light-weight tools — whiteboards, index cards, pen and paper.
  • Be a generalizing specialist — do whatever you can to help the team follow the agile mantra and “do the simplest thing that could possibly work.”

See video and slideshow

(via Alberto Mucignat)

Be the first to share
28 May 2015
The driverless car push ignores challenges of people and context
Autonomous or driverless cars are based on a technology push strategy. Beyond statements like “freeing up time”, “reducing accidents” and some simple scenarios on “remote parking” or “vehicle sharing”, there is far too little thought …
25 May 2015
A Bauhaus-inspired, human-centered internet of things
In a short opinion piece in The Guardian, Jenny Judge and Julia Powles state that the Bauhaus movement could be a model for a more human-centered internet of things: "Back in the early 20th century, the …
10 May 2015
Developing patient-centred care: an ethnographic study of patient perceptions and influence on quality improvement
Developing patient-centred care: an ethnographic study of patient perceptions and influence on quality improvement By Alicia Renedo and Cicely Marston BMC Health Services Research (2015) 15:122 DOI 10.1186/s12913-015-0770-y Background - Understanding quality improvement from a patient perspective is …
9 May 2015
Modernizing the US immigration system with user-centered design
Vivian Graubard describes on WhiteHouse.gov how the U.S. Digital Service is working on modernizing the USA’s still largely paper based immigration service, pairing a better technical base with user-centered design. We traveled to USCIS (United States …
5 May 2015
Intel anthropologist creates data processing tool for Quantified Self community
When data can be both individual, and potentially aggregated across many people, who does and does not have a say in what “the data” ultimately means? A thought provoking piece by Dawn Nafus, an anthropologist …
1 May 2015
The most important part of self-driving cars will be human control
Until now, the public dialogue about self-driving cars has centered mostly on technology, writes Michael Nees, Assistant professor, Lafayette College. The public’s been led to believe that engineers will soon remove humans from driving. Researchers …
30 April 2015
Designer and researcher: the new creative partnership
In the 20th Century creating a close partnership between copywriter and art director led to a creative renaissance in advertising. In the 21st century the relationship between designer and researcher will do the same, argues …
10 April 2015
We are citizens, not mere physical masses of data for harvesting
The deal we have struck with the information society over the extent to which our lives are shaped and our privacy invaded requires urgent renegotiation, argues law professor Julie E Cohen at the annual Law …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

See all articles