Beyond Staggered Sprints: Integrating User Experience and Agile
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Beyond Staggered Sprints: Integrating User Experience and Agile

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This is the talk I gave at Agile 2010 detailing how TheLadders.com UX team has been integrating UX practice into a new Agile environment.

This is the talk I gave at Agile 2010 detailing how TheLadders.com UX team has been integrating UX practice into a new Agile environment.

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  • Using the style guide leveled the playing field between visual design and interaction design. Now everyone on the team could put together a production-ready prototype of most features on the site. This freed up time and allowed folks to get more work done in the two week timeframe. But the quality of the designs and the thinking behind them started to drop…….putting puzzles together is not quite the same thing as design.
  • Prototyping allows us to show the rest of the team what the final app should look like and how it should behave before code is committed and without writing specs – essentially these took the place of our specs. Initially our prototypes were as functional as the one in the picture (delicious but not functional)…..
  • By showing the team the protoype in a meeting, together we surfaced the requirements and the issues with the current approach. Initial goal was to cut out specs. Next goal is to deliver functional code so we’re not throwing away valuable hours……

Beyond Staggered Sprints: Integrating User Experience and Agile Beyond Staggered Sprints: Integrating User Experience and Agile Presentation Transcript

  • Beyond staggered sprints
    How TheLadders.com integrated UX into Agile
  • Who is this guy?
    With a hat like that, he must know his shit.
    Jeff Gothelf
    Currently:
    Director of UX at TheLadders.com
    Previously:
    Publicis Modem, Webtrends, AOL, Fidelity and an assortment of startups
    Blog:
    www.jeffgothelf.com/blog
    Twitter:
    @jboogie
    Email:
    jgothelf@theladders.com
  • Job site for professionals earning $100k or more and the recruiters/employers looking to hire them.
  • Execution team made up of product managers, developers and user experience folks.
  • UX team made up of Interaction Designers, Visual Designers and Copywriters.
    Work spans both pre-paywall acquisition and conversion marketing as well as post-paywall product design.
  • User Experience is a shared service
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
  • Everything was butterflies and rainbows in our waterfall world
    I couldn’t find a pic of a waterfall, a rainbow AND butterflies….sorry.
    • 3-9 month release cycles
    • Thick functional specs
    • In-depth wireframe decks
    • Long visual design cycles
    • Late-stage user validation and testing
    • Explicit hand-offs
    http://www.niagarafallscanadapics.net/Niagara-falls-Canada-rainbow-pdam2.jpg
  • We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock…
    In fact, we had no idea we were going for a ride.
    • Bottom-up decision
    • No heads-up or discussion with UX
    http://www.fieldmuseum.org/museum_info/press/images/nature1_lg.jpg
  • We were told tales of glamour and victory!
    Improvements galore!
    • Better!
    • Faster!
    • Tighter!
    • Nimbler (is that a word?)
    http://membres.multimania.fr/frodon9/hpbimg/oliphant.jpg
  • But instead were treated like Hobbits.
    We can come along, but figure out your own way.
    • Many stories of failure
    • No existing experience
    • No clear path to success
    • But The Precious was out there….we were sure of it
    http://quizilla.teennick.com/user_images/T/tohrupenguin/1112394240_ryfrodosam.jpg
  • So we set out on a quest to find the unicorn!
    And this was no ordinary unicorn.
    Preliminary research made it clear that no one had really nailed this problem.
    http://www.boingboing.net/gimages/patrick.jpg
  • We had some very thorny issues to tackle.
    These became clear very early.
    • What to do with Big Upfront Design?
    • How do you maintain focus on a bigger vision?
    • Can we maintain product quality?
    • How do you produce creative work faster?
    • How do you keep the engineering teams busy each iteration?
    • Will lighter product iterations be accepted by the business?
    • Will we be blamed if they don’t?
    http://www.africandreamadventuresafaris.com/thornbush-arusha-national-park.JPG
  • The journey of 1000 miles starts with one step.
    Our first step was research.
    Agile and user experience
    http://www.africandreamadventuresafaris.com/thornbush-arusha-national-park.JPG
  • And more research…
    This time with humans.
  • We even sought out The Oracle…
    He was very oracle-ish.
    http://www.xqa.com.ar/visualmanagement/wp-content/uploads/XQA_9437.JPG
  • Add up all the research to get…..ideas!
    An idea and $.75 and you’re on your way to that cup of coffee.
    http://legacy.lclark.edu/faculty/jsmiller/objects/idea_bulb.jpg
  • Our first attempt:
    Just get it all done in 2 weeks.
  • We took our 9-month waterfall process…
    Which was mighty and massive
    http://www.julia-mathewson.com/photos/usa_2005_photos/8niagara1.jpg
  • And jammed it into a 2-week timeframe.
    We kept all the pieces and processes the same.
    http://www6.worldisround.com/photos/29/323/524_o.jpg
  • We became chairmen of the boards.
    It got a little silly, actually.
    “The whiteboards do not help organize the UX team’s work at all. Instead, they block out natural light from the windows and create a harsh and uncreative visual environment.”
    - Internal survey respondent
  • Functional specs were now banned.
    The story card had taken the spec’s place. And it multiplied.
  • The boards took on multiple purposes.
    Functional spec. Project plan. Resource allocation. And status indication.
  • The boards took on multiple purposes.
    Functional spec. Project plan. Resource allocation. And status indication.
  • But, hey, the UX team got its own board.
    Which is nice.
  • Wireframes picked up the heavy lifting specs had left behind.
    Annotations galore!
  • Dreams of a “vision” document never materialized.
    You can dream in one hand and poop in the other. See which one fills first.
  • Learnings from our first attempt:
    UX morale in the crapper
    Feeling of “going for the bronze”
    Perceived quality of work was much lower
    No time to design
    No ownership or pride in the work
    Summary: FAIL
  • Our second attempt:
    Introduce two secret weapons
  • Secret weapon #1: Style guides
    The cause of, and solution to, all of UX’s problems.
    • Re-usable components defined once
    • Housed in centralized, accessible KM system
    • Asset library for designers and developers
    • Reduced number of design cycles
    • Reduced dev time
  • Secret weapon #1: Style guides
    The cause of, and solution to, all of UX’s problems.
  • Secret weapon #1: Style guides
    The cause of, and solution to, all of UX’s problems.
  • Secret weapon #1: Style guides
    The cause of, and solution to, all of UX’s problems.
  • Secret weapon #1: Style guides
    The cause of, and solution to, all of UX’s problems.
  • Secret weapon #1: Style guides
    Now, everyone’s a designer. Yay?
    http://iyokobat.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/village-of-the-damned.jpg
  • Secret weapon #2: Prototyping
    Show me. Don’t tell me.
  • Secret weapon #2: Prototyping
    Show me. Don’t tell me.
  • Learnings from our second attempt:
    Style guides make life easier
    Re-usable components FTW!
    “Everyone is a designer” buys more UX time
    Prototyping reduces the need for most documentation
    Summary: We’re making progress
  • Our third attempt:
    Put everything in-line.
  • Wait! You forgot usability testing!
    How else will we know how awesome we are?
    • Every other week (2 weeks sprints)
    • Mid-way through the sprint
    • Enough time to reach
    • Show whatever you have ready
    • No more than 3 participants
    • Clear the boulders
    • Validate and iterate
    http://stevejencks.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/usability.jpg
  • Great, the customer likes it. What about the product owner?
    Opinions are like belly buttons. Belly buttons on cats.
    • Design reviews
    • 2 reviews per iteration
    • Initial review mid-way in the sprint, directional alignment
    • Second review is final – 95% done
    • Ad hoc reviews in between
    • Decision at second review is made to move forward or spend another iteration designing
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/janekeeler/4677093058/sizes/l/
  • Great, the customer likes it. What about the product owner?
    Opinions are like belly buttons. Belly buttons on cats.
    “Design reviews have made the biggest difference. Having all the decision makers in one room has been crucial to getting projects approved on time.”
    - Internal survey respondent
    “Design reviews have helped reduce the “endless email thread” reviews we used to have.”
    - Another internal survey respondent
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/janekeeler/4677093058/sizes/l/
  • Learnings from our third attempt:
    In-sprint user testing provides continuous user feedback in advance of coding
    Lightweight and cost-effective testing
    Formal, fixed design reviews provide mileposts for everyone to strive toward
    Unified approval processes buy more UX time
    Summary: Win!
  • Our fourth attempt:
    Bring everyone together and then separate
  • Can you guess who sketched this?
    The answer will shock you!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/janekeeler/4677093058/sizes/l/
  • Can you guess who sketched this?
    The answer will shock you!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/janekeeler/4677093058/sizes/l/
  • Can you guess who sketched this?
    The answer will shock you!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/janekeeler/4677093058/sizes/l/
  • The whole execution team did in a modified “design studio.”
    You can also call it collaborative sketching.
    Design studios
    • Cross-functional team
    • Everybody draws, presents and critiques
    • Refine ideas through 3 rounds
    • Generate tons of raw ideas
    • Huge headstart for UX
    • Early team-wide alignment
    • Team-wide feeling of ownership
  • Start small.
    6 of your best ideas as fast as possible.
  • Refine to 3 or 4 better ideas.
    Add detail.
  • And once more to one, final, detailed idea.
    Let your one best idea shine.
  • User Experience is a shared service
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
  • UX
    UX
    UX
    UX
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
    Biz Line
  • Learnings from our fourth attempt:
    Collaboration works
    Anyone can contribute ideas
    Focusing teams on one workstream proves effective
    Camaraderie, communication benefit from aligned teams
    Summary: Win! (that’s two, but I’m not counting)
  • Where we are today:
    We’re changing our mind. Slowly.
  • Designers love ritual.
    Trying to pull them out of established ruts is a Herculean task.
    http://www.strongcopssavelives.com/images/Air%20Plane%20Pull%202009.jpg
  • Designers are used to being heroes.
    Agile is distinctly, anti-hero.
    http://www.abegoodman.com/Images/greatest-american-hero.jpg
  • What about estimates?
    Deadlines or points?
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_FfetiF7C9vo/SEeOU0ew8KI/AAAAAAAAILU/CE_tq46wDYM/S600/Washington+DC+auto+mechanic,+1942.JPG
  • Is it viable?
    Yes, but does anybody actually want it?
    Minimally viable
    Minimally desirable
  • Evolution continues through the breaking of old norms.
    Moving towards parallel pathing development and design.
    http://www.greatoutdoors.com/files/imagecache/display/files/images/articles/Wong%20leading%20a%20Powder%208%20win%20%20photo%20-%20Wong%20Collection.jpg
  • Thanks!
    Ask me some questions. Here. Now. Or later: jgothelf@theladders.com / @jboogie