Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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Larry Constantine on Agile Experience Design

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2010/10/18

Larry Constantine is the co-author with Lucy Lockwood of “Software for Use” (1999), well-known in the HCI (Human Computer Interaction) field for his “Essential use cases technique” and his “Usage-centered design methodology”.

He wrote an article (part 1 and part 2) a month ago on Agile and Experience Design Marriage, with an introduction a bit provocative:

when experience design is married with agile development, the results can be a crisis of faith on either or both sides”

In part 1, Larry insists on deep philosophical differences and variance in practices… As a UX practitioner and Agile Coach, involved in various agile projects, I unfortunately have to confirm some of his observations:

  • Agile methods still don’t incorporate usability and UX practices
  • Marriage is often “one way”, experience designers accommodate to the dictates of agile methods and schedules, even if UX tend to become now the key differentiator in the IT marketplace.
  • UX is not the key driver for development
  • UX is still a lack in most agile projects

That said, I don’t agree with, what Larry Constantine calls “core incompatibilities” in the couple. What a negative approach!
Of course, “agile methods employ rapid, iterative refinement, with short, incremental development cycles“. And, yes, “they tend to favor a functionality-first, inside-out process, beginning with early and easy successes that deliver working code“. So what? Is it so incompatible with user experience and usability techniques? I don’t think so!

Rapid prototyping, Guerilla usability testing, Personas and just enough user research, innovation games, Vision or Design workshops are examples of fabulous UX & Usability techniques. They can be effectively applied within agile development cycles.

I rather see the iterative and incremental development as an opportunity to gather, at frequent intervals, feedback… real feedback… rich feedback. Receiving feedback from the team, the customer or of course the users is, according to me the most important element on IT projects.

Time to market, value and simplicity are now crucial for most organizations evolving in a highly competitive environment. It is both a reality that UX specialists need to understand and a strength that lead them to focus only on valuable activities. And I am really convinced that we need to adapt our approach, our tools and deliverables for more effective collaboration with other actors involved in IT projects (not only agile…).

In part 2, Larry Constantine described in detailed the key ingredients to make a better marriage between Experience Design and Agile Development…

  • Respect of each other’s work and skills (I personaly think we’re all professionals)
  • Equality in the development process (I personaly think User Interface Design should be considered as an essential prioritization criterion of the product backlog !
  • Knowledge about each other’s skills and areas of expertise… to get respect and equality (I personaly think learning is a key whatever the context !)
  • Independence though but coordinated activity

… A more optimistic view that I appreciate. I also like his conclusion:

“Now, may your union be a long and prosperous one!”

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