Case Study Findings: Doing UX in an Agile World

Based on this brief post at Nielsen Norman Group by Hoa Loranger at nngroup.com.

Quick take: Agile may be more proficient in execution, but it may also force some to skip user research and compromise the product’s end user experience

Loranger interviewed 8 UX pros (with at least 2 years experience each in Agile environments) about the pros and cons of an Agile process.

All agreed transparency was improved, with issues identified sooner and features delivered more quickly. Fewer last-minute surprises allowed better timeline estimates. The pros called out shorter days and more accountability as improvements.

Teams got better at timeboxing, shortening stand-ups and becoming more concise. Time estimates became more accurate.

Soume found improved communication to be the best result of Agile. Scrum allows cross-functional teams to share and refine ideas together and understand real-world vs ideal outcomes.

But management’s misunderstandings about Agile can limit success, with communications and planning outside of the Scrum teams hampering the teams’ progress. Lack of resources can lead to taking shortcuts and compromising the product.

Actual regular user testing is often not happening, leading to a truncated Agile process that isn’t actually focused on verified real-user needs (and hence isn’t truly Agile) and is instead is fuces on the “genius designer” for its successes–and failures.

The Agile techniques–sketching, wireframing, paper prototyping etc–are great. But without user testing, they’re still just uninformed techniques that don’t produce verified user results.

Tips from Running Successful UX Agile Teams

  • Keep teams consistent–avoid constant reorganizing and shuffling people around
  • Be proactive instead of reactive–cross-functional collaboration from the beginning and throughout the process is essential
  • Be an owner, not a renter
  • Have a dedicated Scrum master keeping teams focused and giving people outside the process a recognizable center player
  • UX must be at least one sprint ahead of developers–resolve research and design issues before they get to developers, who prefer unambiguous directions and requirements

Learn more by taking Nielsen Norman Group’s Lean UX and Agile course.

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