By Frank Spillers

Agile and UX are two processes the many organizations are ramping up on. Agile seems to be more established these days, and the question is how should UX (user experience) play with Agile?

In this week's UX Power Up, Frank shares some ways to think differently about antagonisms and how to get the most out of a cooperative relationship or what he calls the need for Agile + UX to unite. Please post your comments below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Transcript of video above...

Agile UX

Frank Spillers, founder of Experience Dynamics, and it’s time for this week’s UX Power Up.

Today I’d like to talk to you about Agile UX.  Agile has it’s history in customer centered design.  Just like usability, the outcome is the same - it’s to improve higher quality software that actually works for users, and to do it quickly.   The question is, how do you weave agile into a UX process?  Agile development methodology is essentially a very quick running - create an actual build of the software every couple of weeks or every month.  That process is running in such speed that I’ve often been told by teams, “We don’t have time for usability.”  So how do you get past that? And how does UX play with agile?

Let’s take a look at the difference between waterfall and agile, for fun.  In the waterfall model, you have user centered design, or usability activities, that hopefully started at the beginning of the project and inform the dev cycle.  Or, in some cases, usability might have been done at the end.

In agile, it’s a little bit more like this - with the sprints every couple of weeks, building the actual feature or functionality that’s been prioritized in the planning session.  What UX does, in terms of working best with agile, is to drop “just-in-time insights” either from usability testing, or user research or from rapid prototyping, which has really taken off because it’s agile friendly - you can very quickly mock something up - and in the best case, test it with users... bring that feedback into a sprint or into a planning meeting and help prioritize.  That’s really the key with UX in terms of agile, is adding that prioritization and also, adding the influence to the dev team.   The influence role is bringing the user advocacy that usability activities do to the development culture.  That means “Wow, users are really focused on... “ and “This is a really important piece of functionality...”  or “This aspect of our software is really important to users...”   Otherwise, one of the problems with agile is, you kind of get too close to the details and you’re so busy working on that feature in a little time box, and you have a short amount of time to actually build; develop; test - and you kind of loose sight of the big picture.  So, usability or UX, happens to look at the big picture of the user experience, and it can help the dev team prioritize the actual focus for that week or that sprint’s activities or priorities.

If anybody tells you that agile and UX are opposed, in terms of the two cultures, don’t believe them because they actually come from an origin, of you know - agile comes from extreme programming, and extreme programming said from the beginning that the whole purpose of this rapid, iterative, build it like it’s a real thing, is grounded on a customer view.  That’s why you have customers as one of those actors in an agile process.

So, until next time, keep dropping your UX insights - whether it’s usability testing findings from your weekly usability test, or user research that might be occurring monthly or quarterly in best cases.   Good luck, talk to you next time.