Agile and UX – A Powerful Blend

Successful products are those that are optimized for two things – Intuitive design and Speed to market. And though this is a common knowledge among product designers, it fails to be the common practice. Most are forced to focus on only one, either User Experience or Agility. It's not difficult to see why.

The Agile Methodology, which is often labeled as “programmers' methodology” is lightweight, incremental and iterative. Flexibility, early feedback loops and more – Agile is a significant step-up from the waterfall era and facilitates rapid development earlier in the lifecycle of the product.

UX on the other hand, is traditionally a concept that doesn't fit well with terms such as 'rapid' or 'flexibility'. Techniques like persona development, card sorting or user testing take time after all. And it just doesn't seem possible to design such elaborate studies for a development cycle when you know the product is going to change after each sprint.

Expect that it is possible

Agile and UX both focus on the same objective – providing better solutions and a more fluent management of deliverables by addressing the key pitfalls of traditional software development. In doing so, the two concepts relate to, and even complement each other. Incorporating a customer feedback loop in Agile for instance, is a logical extension of the methodology's principle of iterative development or incremental changes.

In making UX and Agile work together, the key is to not get caught up in defined processes and methods. When you consider the different phases of Agile and UX process cycles, without concentrating too much on the individual steps involved, you'll realize that the two are very similar in nature. There's iteration, there's continuous learning and development for both design teams and, there's scope for both processes syncing together and benefiting from each other. The fact that UX cycle can effectively feed into the common Agile sprint cycles only makes integration more plausible.

But the question is how do you make it possible? And here's the answer:

Five steps to syncing UX and Agile

  • Start by including a UX practitioner (or an entire team) at each stage in the cycle of development.
  • Focus on designing all essential aspects of UX early. Employing lightweight designing processes will help you here and so will getting quick validation of concepts.
  • Encourage everyone in the design team to champion better UX.
  • Collaborate across all development teams. Collaborate again. And then collaborate some more. UX in an Agile environment requires continued alliance throughout the development life-cycle. Adopting a siloed approach is a surefire way to fail in the integration of UX and Agile.

Facilitating better partnership between UX and Agile teams is one way you can avoid this pitfall. When both teams mutually understand their and the other teams' needs and constraints, their quality of working relationship will improve and so will the quality of collaboration in different life-cycle stages.

  • And finally, be ready to go beyond the books. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to UX and Agile collaboration. There are no rules set in stone. So instead of focusing on whether your methodology is 'right' or 'wrong' as per the rules, focus on whether it is working or not. Give both teams the freedom to experiment and get creative. It helps to remember that the relationship between UX and Agile will be different across different products, services and clients.