Why you should adopt the Agile approach for UX Design Process

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By: Sagar Sharma

Why you should adopt the Agile UX Design Process

From the very outset “Agile UX Design Process” sounds a bit of a mouthful and borderlines marketing jargon. However, it is a very practical process with tangible benefits for designers seeking efficient and intuitive designs, keeping user feedback at the center of the design process. In fact, for teams accustomed to Agile ways of working, the process is nothing new. It is just an application of Agile software development methodology to mobile app design.

How to design mobile application in an Agile way

You can checkout Interaction Design Foundation’s article describing the “The 5 phases of Google’s Design Sprint” as:

  • Unpack – An initial get-together to develop common understanding of the problem, its solution, and the market scenario
  • Sketch – Solution detailing
  • Decide – Prioritization of features required for prototype
  • Prototype – development of prototype
  • Test – Google recommends 6-20 users for testing of the prototype

While this can approach can be useful for those who are seeking guidance on how to design mobile application in an Agile way, UX designers who haven’t worked in an Agile team will take some time to adapt. Further, as every organization has it’s own work culture and methods to practice Agile, they can develop their own version of Agile UX design process.

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The need for Agile UX Design Process

The biggest challenge in the adoption of Agile comes from the decentralization of accountability. It is also its biggest advantage. Agile makes every team member accountable for the success or failure of the project. This, in theory, means that the UX designers have to be a part of the entire software development cycle. The idea is to keep the entire team of business analysts, designers, and developers on the same page.

The work of a UX designer starts even before the start of a development Sprint. They need to work closely with project stakeholders in envisaging the software behavior and pinning down the mobile app design requirements. This often requires UX designers to collaborate within the same project management tools (Scrum, Kanban boards etc) as those used by the development teams.

This would mean that the designers would have to work on user stories defined for the design features by the project owner. However, in Agile it is often stressed that the most critical bits of software must be developed first in the initial sprints. The criticality of the features or user stories in a backlog is decided by the product owner. Usually, the sizing and prioritization of user stories in a backlog are done with Fibonacci effort points and MoSCoW prioritization method, respectively.

UX designers need to be a part of these early stages, not only to help in the grooming of the backlog but also to develop a better understanding of the business goals. Early collaboration between UX designers and business owners is also desirable as the designers can make a huge impact on the success of the project. As failing early, failing small is becoming an acceptable trend, UX designers can ensure that complacency in the design is not among the factors for this failure.

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Integrating Agile Methods with the Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking is an exploratory approach which relies on identifying end-user needs and discovering solutions to meet those needs. UX designers are generally better placed when it comes to thinking from the end-user’s point of view. Their job is to help in the development of solutions which are fun to use. That’s why being truly Agile goes beyond the use of tools – the designers need to understand their importance in the team and should be actively involved in providing design suggestions for the improvement of the software at all stages.

Sometimes, a small change in the interaction design can reduce a lot of problems faced by the developers. However, such changes in mobile app design are usually accompanied by an increase in the development work. The point is that Agile will need such changes being an iterative process where all those changes that help in achieving a business goal are always welcome. That’s why Agile is so effective in delivering quick value – it allows you to adapt quickly based on feedback and learning. This also means that the work of a UX designer is never over in an Agile project.

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