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Agile User Experience Projects (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Agile projects aren’t yet fully user-driven, but new research shows that developers are actually more bullish on key user experience issues than UX people themselves.

Last year, we conducted a study of best practices in integrating usability methods with Agile development projects.

Usually, it’s not worth studying the same problem again just a year later since user behavior doesn’t change much. But this particular project didn’t concern user behaviors, but rather the best way to run Agile projects to ensure usability.

Because this is still a new field, we decided to supplement last year’s research with a new round of more detailed studies focused on additional organizations that have had more time to discover better ways to manage Agile user experience (UX).

UX: The Gatekeeper Role

The two main recommendations for ensuring good usability in Agile projects remain the same as in our original research:

  • Separate design and development, and have the user interface team progress one step ahead of the implementation team. That way, when it comes time to build something, it’s already been designed and tested. (And yes, you can do both in a week or two by using paper prototypes and discount user testing.)
  • Maintain a coherent vision of the user interface architecture. Create the initial vision during a “sprint zero” period — before any implementation has started — and maintain it through annual (or semi-annual) design vision sprints. You can’t just design individual features; they have to fit together into a coherent whole — a whole that must be designed as well. Bottom-up user interface design equals a confused total user experience (the Linux syndrome).

In both rounds of research, these two ideas proved useful across many of the different companies we studied. One modification became clear in the second round, prompted by the PayPal case study: it’s important to designate a gatekeeper to track requirements and communications between the UX team and the other project teams to keep everybody on track (even though those tracks are parallel).

Continue reading this article at: Agile User Experience Projects (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).