In recent years, agile has become the most popular software development methodology in the industry. Self-organized, cross-functional teams frequently analyze circumstances and user needs to adapt to projects. This methodology is best for scenarios in which requirements change frequently and teams are doing iterative development. Agile focuses on development and timelines. It also embodies a periodic, incremental development approach to solving problems.
A central team of designers, researchers, and business analysts work on the initial discovery stages, then hand over the requirements to the UX designers and Scrum team, who implement a design solution. Agile UX focuses on building a product backlog comprising the following:
Business and UX strategies
Usability-testing analysis for any legacy systems
Design works ahead of development by a minimum of one sprint. During sprint planning, the team prioritizes the list of features; then a Scrum team selects product-backlog items, moves them to the sprint backlog, and depending on the velocity of the team, implements them. UX designers plan and facilitate collaborative activities such as design studios and brainstorming sessions with a Scrum team, which comprises a Scrum master, developers, product owners/managers, and technical writers. At the end of each sprint, the Scrum team demos its outcome during a sprint review meeting. This helps the team to assess how well their overall progress aligns with the product roadmap.
When should you use Agile?
Use agile in the following cases:
You need to test against fixed outcomes.
You must ship products quickly, based on a timeline.
You require the ability to scope, descope, or prioritize features based on budget, quality, and value through a number of sprints.
You need to act on customer demands over time.
You must ensure user-friendly products by collaborating with customers during development.
Your intent is to achieve customer satisfaction through rapid, continuous delivery of minimum viable experiences (MVEs).
When should UX be involved in Agile?
The struggle is to fit the UX “process” (research, ideation, prototyping, user testing, and iteration) into sprints, which in many organizations, typically lasts two to three weeks. To overcome struggles, UX designers will typically work a sprint ahead of the development teams. The problem with this is that development teams might expect the designs to be completed by the time their sprint begins. UX should be included in a project as early as the ideation phase and involved through the project’s life cycle, including after launch. Research is essential at all times. UX should work in close cooperation with the product team and the stakeholders from the onset of the project when requirements are defined and the roadmap is created.
Challenges for Designers
Agile UX presents the following challenges to designers:
Aligning the entire team to communicate a common vision for the product
Tunnel vision due to the team’s pace. Sometimes teams are so focused on executing user stories that they don’t look at things from a broader perspective.
A development-focused approach
UX designers having too much to do within a two-week sprint
Absence of UX research before the start of sprint 0
The success of a project’s outcome is dependent on validating designs by receiving continuous feedback from users and stakeholders either at every sprint or for key releases. Agile goals are established in order to produce working software quickly while emphasizing collaboration and communication, over documentation. Hence, flexibility is essential. In an agile environment, UX designers help to define the user’s needs as well as to conduct user evaluations. Under this concept, developers are the ones responsible for the UI. However, creating the UI of an application without having an understanding of the user’s needs can result in an inferior user experience.
Love & Hate Relationship Between Agile and UX
After talking to a few UXers, there’s obviously not a perfect recipe for how UX should fit into the Agile “process”.
Agile is not a process, it’s a healthy mentality to have when you produce software.
I talked to people that were part of centralized and decentralized teams. A centralized team would have daily standups and also attend backlog refinements when they are involved in a project with a development team. When the value of UX in Agile is fully understood, UXers can become part of a decentralized team supporting the product owner dedicated to that team, the QA analysts and developers. Keep in mind, you need to do what works for you.