MSc project, 2008. Results of a study about role of UX practitioners on agile projects. About me: UX designer at Vodafone, on an agile project.
explain that I have been working in UX
My interest in the topic, chance to do this research great, because I was intrigued by my experience with agile and wanted to learn more.
Core challenges of agile and UX - seem very similar, ad both iterative, collaborative. But differences, role of UCD being defined/negotiated. Aim of the research was to explore from UX perspective. Asses, further explore previous research and add to discussion. Started with analysis of status quo - previous research to inform research questions and focus of our study. Outcome of review of previous research:
Status quo: looked at currently reported methods and techniques. Working ahead: in sprints, ahead of testing. Sy/Miller: parallel design track. Lightweight design tools (eg paperprototypes. suggested e.g. by Beyer).UX teams using story/requ cards similar to developer cards.
Agile and UX community understand they can benefit from each other, but requires flexibility, change in attitude. active, adapt way of working. Risks: struggle for recognition, lack of UX ownership. Opp: define role, improve perception.
decided on research approach after literature review
qualitative approach - collected data in interviews, followed by observation. Data was transcribed, coded, categorised to identify and refine main themes and categories. themes emerging from the data (no predefined framework)
Mindset, use of UCD methods, agile tools,new tools, how used. Methods involving the end user like testing, contextual research. Team structure, collaboration tools.
10 participants. All with UCD backgrounds, job roles e.g. UX consultant, IA, IxD. Chosen opportunistically due to time frame of project. 8 months - 6 years experience with agile. Majority followed a Scrum approach. Not all colocated.
was one of interviewees. large organisation, agile experience, dev teams follow scrum. 2 days, goal to explore/revise themes and categories from interview analysis.
Following the process of how the research was conducted
Interview results yielded 2 main themes: vision, identity.
This theme refers to the participants’ self-concept: how they understand agile, what working agile means to them and how they participate in an agile project. It also refers to how others view the participant and the UX role. Agile projects challenge UX practitioners to reconsider their role in the development process, their way of approaching projects and their way of thinking; which leads to a process of identity shaping. Our data shows that a good understanding of agile and active participation in the process are perceived to facilitate a UX practitioner’s ability to work in an agile context. --> Elements of Identity
Most participants saw it as a philosophy, a way of thinking rather than a framework or toolkit of methods. --> quote
how participants thought about elements of agile - <click> especially flexibility and sufficiency. Flexibility: advantage, no over-defined approach, choose methods that make sense, respond to change. But dealing with change can be struggle. Sufficiency: agile not about perfectionism, but about doing things in a simple and sufficient way. Can be hard to accept for designers --> quote
“ ... It's just the hardest thing for the designer mentality, user experience mentality to think about things not being right and just getting them 80 % there, ok, just good enough. ”
Despite difficulties, awareness of challenges participants saw agile as the right approach. Not suitable for all projects, but the way to go in terms of mindset. --> quote
a general problem - but agile the way to resolve those
2nd aspect of identity: roles, respons taken on. related to understanding of agile, express/shape self-concept and identity. Comm hub: UX communicative, but even more due to less docu - more comm. Interaction with people, tools such as sketches, wireframes, personas to support/facilitate comm. Hub & mindset = more involvement in day-to-day dev process. Active, got involved in e.g. setting up backlog, writing stories, prio and planning. scrum masters. --> a blending of roles.
go to quote
very important, as focus on people is what differentiates discipline of UX. Balancing business objectives against user needs. > quote
shape role in team as user advocate. So, identity shaped by understanding of agile and its attributes, active, engaged. Comm hub. Issue: agile projects, esp by people in larger dev teams with few ux resources, experienced as stressful.
Participants agreed that in order to design a good UX, an understanding of the end user and their needs is necessary. The UX vision is the concept of envisioning the experience the user should have when using a product. Aspects are quite high level, e.g. the core values of the service, core tasks. vision is built based on user needs, but also on stakeholder requirements.
establish: up-front research. also time needed to understand stakeholders. needed to be done before dev starts. some felt 2 week up-front sufficient, but people on large projects or with lack of ux resources struggled. --> if not enough time to establish, then you need to evaluate. lack of time/resources made it challenging to include user research. and to apply insights from e.g. testing to vision. Participants felt need of an interim sprint zero. <quote>
To prevent: next slide
In process of delivery. Experience required to plan design in chunks and sprints. Participants overloaded, not enough resources --> drowning in comm and delivery, losing big picture while focussing on details. Time pressure.
vision useless if not communicated. communication tools to align ux team, and to comm vision to stakeholders, devs. lightweight tools. close collaboration with development allows to protect vision - awareness of what‘s going on allows to get involved, intervene. More involvement - ensures UX vision is delivered. Being aware = demanding. again,participants under pressure, too much.
3 strategies were found (also used in combination) 1: as found in literature review. depending on amount of UX resources, can be hard to include user research.1 sprint ahead = challenge. Complex project/proposition --> do research way before dev starts. 2: 2 UX work streams. one for detailed design, dev support current sprint, one for research, testing, design work for next sprints.problem: satellite disconnected from team, vision. Rotating satellite as an approach to solve that. but that could affect team collaboration. 3: plan testing in advance, just do something. light-weight planning and analysis, guerilla research, test - redesign - test, do evaluative and generative research in one go. --> mindset! <quote>
after interviews completed, goal to refine themes.
it‘s about the willigness to work together from the whole team, and also about how the team thinks about agile. openness to work this way from all sides required. job role influenced by how UX is seen in the organisation, if there are lots of silos and hierarchies pro: observed designer succeeded in changing his team role by collaboration and colocation. but he suffered from communication hub - sit down and get some design time = work late. was a satelite = had to communicate more with UX team to feel connected, content. struggled to be only satellite (also workload).
team vision: mutual understanding of what the product should be, goals from tech/business/UX perspective. different aspects of team vision influence each other. Uncovering and negotiating these visions important --> agile appraoch more effective as it encourages teams to find better collaboration tools. <click> question board: unanswered questions on left on question sheets. discussion on post its in the middle. Resolved isssues moved to right. reference, stakeholder disc. quote
Jim used it to communicate UX vision, advocate end user needs in discussions - and that worked!
Research confirms that the more understanding, mindset, the better.
Shaping one‘s role. how UX and dev community general issue, but agile facilitates overcoming that. Risk: lit review: recommendations to UX designers to become actively involved. Participants did that. Con: high level of communication = bottleneck of communication. Delivery priority, not enough resources, stress >click>
lack of understanding of the user impacts not only satisfaction, but the vision. user research important to back up design decisions, facilitate decision making processes. (mention observation example). this has to be in place --> next slide
UX on the strategy table - how this will then be taken through to delivery
emerging patterns for integrating UX within agile development, based on previous research and the outcomes of this project need to get in there early - requirements, stories, backlogs, choice of comm tools, prioritisation project vision: to allow agile delivery to move with direction
observe identity shaping: longer-term ethnographic study,if perception is improved, and if pushing for end user inclusion is made easier by raising awareness for UCD. strategies for achieving colocation, collaboration strategies in different environments
The importance of identity and vision to UX designers on agile projects
“ I don't ever believe
in the right products, it's never gonna be right . I think that sits at the core of agile mentality. Which is actually good in some ways, but it's kind of counter-intuitive design mentality .” - P8
“ It's blending it all
together. Equally developers need to be more skilled at design. As not to say they should do design, I should do code, but we need to be able to speak each others language . ” – P2
Implications for practitioners (1)
Become a design facilitator and active participant Align UX team members around a clear vision and make sure your project‘s vision is clear, too
Implications for practitioners (2)
Consider user panels , test no matter what, combine evaluative and generative research Explore lightweight methods and agile tools Use interim sprint-zeros to reflect on and refine your vision
Areas for future research
Impact of co-location (or the lack of it) Exploration of different environments and contexts (e.g. in-house vs. freelancers, web vs. mobile applications)