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  • Steven Wilson-Beales

User Centred Design and Agile: notes from UXPA UK event

The UXPA UK panel .

Last night, I attended another fantastic UXPA UK event hosted at Sapient House, London, to discuss agile in the context of user centred design.

As a content strategist I always find these events rewarding because content strategy shares many of the challenges faced by UX teams. We all want to champion user-centric content, hitting business objectives by bringing the users and clients closer to the design process. Plus, it’s always good to discuss the latest trends over a nice, cold beer! UXPA UK had organized three speakers who spoke about their experience of agile – this was followed by a panel discussion.

First up, Eewei Chen spoke about metrics driven design and how agile can fit into a well-rounded UX strategy. It was interesting to hear about his experience at where they took the very brave step of removing an MPU (serving third party ads which delivered substantial revenue) in order to improve the user experience and, ultimately, reinforce their core brand values and marketing strategy.

Eewei spoke about the ux principles of ‘Output, Outcome and Impact’ which should be incorporated in any design and finished by repeating the value of getting users involved early in the design process. Essential for any project.

Next up, Sophie Freiermuth presented ‘Agile and UX: A 360 vision’. I really liked her approach to introducing agile into a new team. Rather than bombard them with a whole new methodology, she often started with incremental changes. Look at the appetite for agile within your business, how can you make your teams more interactive, what can you do to speed up process and reduce documentation? What about the clients, are they willing to get involved with the product on a more regular basis? Crucially ‘define your definition of done’ – understand and agree as a team the minimum requirements needed to get your product out to the users in order to benefit from their feedback.

Finally, James O’Brien, self-confessed ‘UX salmon’, nuked some of the myths around agile. Firstly, just reading the agile books won’t make your company agile. James pointed out he’d been to more than one business where they were following the principles of agile in the form of a template but were crucially avoiding deeper structural changes. Secondly, agile iterative cycles are not smooth but messy – a company needs to prepare for the chaos of experimentation. Lastly, agile ‘velocity’ is not a real thing – all it does is throw light on how you estimate project timelines.

The panel discussion that followed raised some significant questions from the audience; people wanted to know where to fit agile within the design process and how to persuade clients that agile was worth investing in. The panel replied – every project is different so no agile process is ever going to be the same. As for clients, you will need to test their appetite for experimentation as results often take months to appear.

The panel also acknowledged that agile does not suit every aspect of the production process such as strategy planning and setting objectives. However, if agile is only contained within one small  area of the production process then what you really have is ‘agile in waterfall’ or WAGILE.

Another fascinating insight into agile processes and I’ll be looking forward to future UXPA UK events.

Have you any thoughts on the topic above? Please feel free to leave your comments below.


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