UX and Agile: Tying the knot

by Michael Lai  •  16 April 2013

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver thruppence in her shoe.”—classic wedding tradition

In the modern software development environment, UX and agile practitioners are becoming part of a growing culture defining the way online products and services are being delivered.

The modern UX team is much more multi-disciplinary and organic than ever before, and it’s no surprise that hybrid processes and methodologies are being employed to ensure better management of personnel and project deliverables. Although UX and agile both address key pitfalls that exist in traditional software development to deliver a better solution for the end-user, sometimes UX and agile approaches seem to work against each other when people focus too much on the processes and procedures.

Just as UX design doesn’t have to be constrained to a specific type of user research or wireframe tool, agile software development is not defined by SCRUM meetings or dynamic programming pairings. The detailed research and testing required to develop an understanding of complex user interactions and behaviors still has its place in the hectic sprints through iterations of design concepts and prototypes. There is a place for both practices to co-exist harmoniously if we ignore the hype and stick to the basics.

Here are some factors and advice for a happy marriage between the two.

Something Old: The project management triangle
For team members working in an agile software development environment (if you are not already, it is simply a matter of time), the principles of the old Project Management Triangle still apply. How the cost, scope, and schedule are balanced will always determine the quality (i.e. success) of the project, and this needs to be assessed with each project (i.e. the client requirements). Unfortunately, no one is immune to senior management and project managers trying to upset the balance of the PM Triangle by reducing costs, tightening deadlines, and adding features in the specification (most likely to try and make a sale).

These low hanging fruits, with their frustratingly shortsighted gains, invariably end up being the poisoned chalice that no one wants to drink from. The companies with long-term vision recognize that, in the end, you can’t set a fixed price tag to the quality of the work if you add to the effort required to produce it. Trends in software development methodologies come and go (the acronym creators may already be at work now), but age-old principles and ideas are here to stay.[Article]

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