Agile UX: Incorporating User Experience into Agile Processes

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Premier Developer Consultant Daisy Chaussee writes how to integrate user experience and design into agile processes. In combining Agile and UX, teams can attain greater collaboration, continuous improvement, and efficiency in development.

The goal of this blog post is to provide guidance on how to integrate User Experience into Agile processes. In doing this, you can remove waste from the design process, harmonize the system of designers, developers, engineers, and others in cross-functional collaboration, and adopt a culture based on experimentation and continuous improvement.

To incorporate UX into agile sprints, the number one thing to do is hold a design sprint. During this design sprint (or sprint 0), work should be designed and validated; all stakeholders should come together and provide input; and a backlog of design-focused user stories for future development should be created. Additionally, the design team should gather ideas, sketches, wireframes, and user research to then bring back to the entire team during Sprint Planning. All of this design pre-work will make creating and prioritizing a backlog for development much easier; the design sprint enables prioritization and scoping to ensure an accurate timeline and accurate requirements for development. Think of it as the envisioning period before the actual execution.

While teams should continue designing and adjusting throughout sprints, the initial design sprint is crucial in setting a project up for success. Once the design sprint is completed, the entire team can hold the Sprint Planning meeting to create a backlog. Then, throughout the sprint, all team members (including designers) should participate in stand ups, calls, meetings, etc. because “without designers’ participation, teams lack shared understanding and priorities” (Lean UX). Cross-functional participation allows designers and developers to negotiate the complexity of features and prioritize the project’s work items.

In agile processes, design activity should take place 1-2 sprints ahead of development. So in the first sprint, the dev team will implement the designs from the design sprint (sprint 0), while the design team focuses on designing for sprint 2. Furthermore, you can incorporate these concepts into the tools you use for agile processes. For example, in Microsoft’s Visual Studio Team Services, you can create a team structure for a Design/UX Team and a Development Team. In user stories and product backlog items, you can then assign the Area to the correct team. You can also use tags such as “design” or “ux” to add to the backlog items; filtering the backlog on these tags can streamline what the design team is working on. You can also do this with swim lanes.

Another key element to Agile UX is remembering the end user. This means researching and talking to users during the Design Sprint to understand the business need and user requirements, but it also means gathering user feedback at the end of each sprint. Feedback sessions or surveys can be a great way to gather feedback to use in the next sprint, making sure the team is creating a solution that will deliver value to the end user. Ultimately, “designers have long been advocates for the end user. Agile UX doesn’t change that. As we make assumptions about our business and the outcomes we’d like to achieve, we still need to keep the user front and center in our thinking” (Lean UX).


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