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AgileUX: Prototyping, Design Studio and Sketching

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2012/05/26

Here are the slides of the presentation I gave at Agile France 2012 (Paris)

A day in life of an AgileUX Practitioner: UI principles and Usability Guidelines

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2011/04/20

Activity #3 of the Agile UX practitioner…

The Agile UX practitioner shares with the team his knowledge of the design principles and User Interface patterns …

This is a daily activity for the AGILE UX PRACTIONNER. It consists in fostering learning on users’ cognitive processes (learning, perception, memory, problem solving…), design principles… and continuously making the focus on User Centered Design, via deliverables and above all collaborative workshops, both with development and business teams.

This list of 11 principles of interface design is a good starting point:

Principle # 1: Visibility & invitation

Leading users through an interaction, guiding them through the accomplishment of specific tasks, indicating the possible actions that can be taken or just informing them about their context

Principle #2: Legibility & readability

Enabling easy reading and fostering a good understanding of what is displayed on the screen: the physiological process of reading but also the understanding of what is read.


Principle # 3: Grouping

Establishing and visually reinforcing structure and relationships, providing functional groupings of associated elements.

Principle # 4: Direct Feedback

Giving immediate and appropriate feedback, keeping the user informed of what’s happening.


Principle #5: User Control

Always enabling the user control over the actions of the system, the dialogue and interactions.

Principle #6: Simplicity

Ensuring conciseness, minimizing interface complexity, offering the proper amount of information and relevant functionalities.

Principle # 7: Error Management

Preventing user errors, helping to manage when they occur (reduction and recovery), providing good error messages.

Principle # 8: Flexibility

Adapting to the characteristics or specific needs of the users (views, preferences…), providing accelerators and allowing interface customization.

Principle # 9: Consistency

Providing the user with a stable framework - navigation, interactions, language, styles, appearance, procedural usage… -  in similar contexts.

Principle #10: Significance & Meaningfulness

Speaking the user language, fostering simple and natural dialogue, using meaningful illustrations.

Principle #11: Compatibility

Adapt to the procedures, activities or characteristics of the users, designing for mental models, but also taking into account standards and conventions of  identical contexts and situations.

A day in life of an AgileUX Practitioner: Personas

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2011/03/08

Activity #2 of the Agile UX practitioner…
(See the Activity#1: Vision)

The Agile UX practitioner creates Personas collaboratively

A persona is a user-archetype, a fictional representation of target users you can use to help guide decisions about product, features, navigation, visual design…

Persona "Sophie" (for a french banking project) Contexts-Goals-Implications

Persona "Sophie" (for a french banking project) Contexts-Goals-Implications in an agile way. Personas workshop

Personas are an essential element of the product Vision envisioned at a strategy level. They represent the first sections of our Vision formula (from Geoffrey Moore): FOR (target for the product) …WHO (users’ needs), a key element of the famous elevator pitch.

The persona approach provides a team with a common and shared understanding of the users of a service or product (but also what they want, their behavior, their needs and expectations) in a very engaging format, easily linked to Agile User Stories.

In short, personas are a fantastic way to integrate real User Experience all along the product development project.

And this is the role of the Agile UX practitioner to  be the Personas promoter and to initiate their creation in collaboration with the Product Owner and the Team.

Create the Personas with Agile Teams

Everything starts at the beginning of the project, before sprint 1 (a sprint 0 or short exploration is an appropriate period for doing it). But, the persona approach requires mobilizing the entire team around it and should be envisioned collaboratively.

1 Prepare

  • Organize one or two workshops with the Product Owner  and various stakeholders in order to be aligned to the objectives and the approach, to identify data sources, to determine categories of people to interview (for example the core roles)
  • Inform the entire team of the process
  • Then collect data from various sources including user interviews.

2 Construct collaboratively

  • Analyze data (facts) in collaborative workshops using affinity diagram and identify variables then patterns
  • Create the Personas skeletons
  • Give birth to the personas (including storytelling, writting and visual design) using the format you prefer (formal or not)
  • Validate the results with various stakeholders
A Persona Template (more formal)

A Persona Template (more formal)

3 Communicate & Use

  • Include the Personas on the Information Radiator within the team environment
  • Link the Personas to User Stories
  • Use them as a prioritization tool (in the Product Backlog) and a designing tool (related to specific user stories)
  • If necessary, make a communication plan for marketing and sales activities: make a buzz!
Personas Ericsson Life in 2020

Personas Ericsson Life in 2020: Make the Buzz!

A day in life of an AgileUX Practitioner: Vision

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2011/03/04

Activity #1 of the Agile UX practitioner…

The Agile UX practitioner helps to define the product Vision

Agile or not, the Vision is crucial

At an organization level, the vision helps to appreciate and believe in the company. On a daily basis, and from a team and employee point of view, it’s a good way to create meaning in work.

One product, One Vision…

Front

Any product...

At any product is necessarily associated with a Vision, setting the course, giving meaning and describing what is envisioned for the product in the short, medium or long term. The product Vision and the Personas form the foundations of the entire user experience of the product (Strategy element).Vision is also the highest level of agile planning (Daily-> Sprint -> Release -> Roadmap -> Vision)

“Fits in a shirt pocket, syncs seamlessly With PC, fast and easy to use, No more than $ 299 “…

like the vision of Hawkins for the Palm Pilot, the product vision is often short, goals driven and related to a problem.

But to be meaningful, effective and to federate individuals around it, the product vision must be shared with the team. In Scrum, that is the job of the Product Owner, and that should be completed before the team starts working its first sprint.

Building and sharing the product vision is a huge challenge for the Product Owner. And the Agile UX practitioner has an important role to play (as a workshop facilitator or input provider based on user research) to help him in such difficult task. Again, collaboration is the key and the most effective techniques to define and share the vision are collaborative. Here is a focus on the main activities and facilitation techniques I use during the Vision workshops with my clients.

PRODUCT VISION BOX (my favorite)

From Highsmith (2004). The “Product Vision Box” is a very appropriate technique when starting a project to create the vision and share it with the team responsible to design the product (and why not, those in charge of the sale).

One product = One Vision = One Product Vision Box

The all team creates a visual, concrete image of the software, product or service which it is supposed to develop. They build together their own product vision BOX. So, the final result is always a single box, although in the context of the workshop, several intermediate boxes can be created by sub-groups.

This final box is built collectively in the consensus and collaboration. It represents the shared vision, and includes the following elements:

  • Front: Name - Picture or drawing (if possible) - Slogan - 3 / 4 Bullets arguments for Sale
  • Back: A more detailed view with more functionality, the pre-requisites …

The workshop has a playful side. It promotes discussions, collaboration and requires participants to go straight to the point and set priorities.

FRONT

Front

Front: Product Vision Box of this blog!

BACK

Back

Back: Product Vision Box of this blog!

PRODUCT BOX (the most UX)

From Hohmann (2006). The Product box is one of the most useful and popular “innovation games”. The technique is both very close to the previous format and different (due to its strong “UX” connotation”). With the product box we really have the VOICE of THE CUSTOMER.

One Product = n Visions = n Boxes

Product Boxes...

Product Boxes...

The “Product Box” workshop is above all customer-oriented. Its purpose is to collect the maximum users’ feedbacks about an existing product. So users are invited to participate to the “game”: designing the box that they would buy, and then to imagining that they’re selling the product at a trade show or at the supermarket (represented by the facilitator and the other customers).

The cereal box is a good example to introduce the game to the participants.

Example of a cereal box

Example of a cereal box

Customers can work individually or form sub-groups (3 persons). The box (the customer vision) includes the same elements as above (and more …)

  • Front: Name - Picture or drawing (if possible) - Slogan - 3 / 4 Bullets arguments for Sale
  • Back: View more detailed with more functionality, the pre-requisites…

The “Product box” technique is highly relevant to innovation. It is very useful in view of improving the product, or to explore and collect users’ needs. My objective as a facilitator is to get the maximum of boxes, even if at the end of the workshops, an important work of analysis has to be planned.

How does it work?

  • 40 minutes to design the box (individually or in groups of 3 persons)
  • And 5 minutes by box to sell it to other groups or individuals.

The Product box can guide a final vision by drawing what customers want, how they envision the product, what they expect, what they find most interesting, what they focus on, and also what arguments they use to sell it. If I took the example of my blog , I would invite 16 passionate readers of agile-ux a Saturday afternoon, to create several AgileUX Vision boxes and sell it to the others… :)

Vision Statement (a must!)

From Moore (1991). It is also called “the statement of position” or “Elevator Pitch”. Actually it’s a formula to pass the famous elevator test (explain your product in the time it takes to ride up in an elevator).

The model is really efficient: I use it consistently with my clients. It is a precious facilitation tool useful to explore, create and share a product vision.

The Vision formula applied... On the wall, with the team, from the beginning to the end of the project

The Vision formula applied... On the wall, with the team, from the beginning to the end of the project

The vision statement is structured into 6 sections that summarize in less than two minutes (elevator pitch)  the vision of the product.

FOR (target for the product)

WHO (users’ needs)

OUR PRODUCT IS (the product category)

THAT (major benefit, key functionalities)

UNLIKE (current practice, competition)

OUR PRODUCT (major differentiator)

A two-column presentation is a good practice but a linear version (elevator pitch format) works well too…

Agile prototyping tools: Paper, Whiteboard and Balsamiq…

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2011/02/22

…that is all you need to work effectively!

The mockup activity (or prototyping) is part of a user-centered design approach. And the “Wireframe” has become over the years one of the most favorite artifact of User Experience specialists to communicate a concept, verify design assumptions and testing various options or validate ideas and usability decisions …

Example of wireframe: my french blog

Example of wireframe with Balsamiq: my french blog

Wireframe: the real issues

A wireframe is a “low fidelity” prototype. This non-graphical artifact shows the skeleton of a screen, representing its structure and basic layout. It contains and localizes contents, features, navigation tools and interactions available to the user.

The wireframe is usually:

  • black and white,
  • accompanied by some annotations to describe the behavior of the elements (default or expected states, error cases, values, content source…), their relationships and their importance,
  • often put in context within a storyboard (a sequence of screens in a key scenario)
  • refined again and again
  • used as a communication tool serving as an element of conversation and confirmation of  ”agile” user stories

Various tools can be used to create wireframes (with different format and level of fidelity), from the simplest to the most sophisticated ones, free or not…

Just enough is the best…

I’ve seen too many projects (led by traditional development methods) in which a wireframe was one of the numerous artifacts of the project, just additional documentation, created solitary by a single person, aiming at replacing dialogue and conversation between people. What a waste…

But I’m also always amazed when I intervene on a agile project as a coach to observe that wireframes are rarely used. Moreover, design & specifications workshops,  interactions, conversations, feedbacks between Product Owner and team  are not effective, partially or not done. What a waste…

The winner of the “the best prototyping tool award” is actually… a Trio!

The real strength of the wireframe lies in its ability:

  • to be a communication tool, used during a workshop to facilitate discussion with developers, testers and business actors (Product Owner).
  • to be created collaboratively, in order to enable everyone on a team to have a shared picture ,

So, wireframes help to generate feedback, to see potential problems with an interface and to clarify conditions of satisfaction.

For these reasons, simple PAPER PROTOTYPING done collectively,

quick collaborative wireframes on the WHITEBOARD,

and rapid sketching activities with BALSAMIQ,

are by far the most effective.

On Agile projects (with short sprint lasting 2 or 3 weeks), this is not only an option!  Rapid and valuable prototyping in order to foster collaboration and elicit rapid feedback is a must.

Exploring, illustrating and understanding ust enough, just in time… wireframes should be adjusted in terms of scope, details, timing and level of fidelity with a special focus on feedback, collaboration and interactions. This is probably the reason why I abandoned tools like Microsoft Visio and PowerPoint or Axure RP Pro or PowerPoint that have long been my preference but which are mostly inappropriate in the Agile contexts …

Paper Prototyping

Paper prototyping is probably the fastest and easiest form of wireframes but not the least effective. Direct, simple, visual, cheap, enabling rich feedback, paper wireframes focus above all on collaboration and proximity.

Paper Prototyping: easy to create a wireframe

Paper (sketch): easy to create a low-fidelity wireframe

Complexity of the format varies from one context to another, as highly developed paper prototypes can be created with proper equipment, good preparation and facilitation. Interactive paper prototyping sessions offer other benefits: direct manipulation, interactivity, playfulness and creativity.

Paper prototyping

Paper prototyping

Larger collaborative workshops (focus on prototyping) can be very valuable both for design and testing activities.

Design workshop. We divided the group into sub-groups (45 minutes preparation - 15 minutes presentation)

Design workshop. We divided the group into sub-groups (45 minutes preparation for the first round - 15 minutes presentation)

Simplicity is both a value and a strong principle of agility. Paper prototyping is a solid practice of Agile teams

UI paper

UI paper

Witheboard: just in time, just enough…

Teamwork on the whiteboard is one of the most efficient form of communication.

Communication Modes Effectiveness - Scott Ambler

Communication Modes Effectiveness - Scott Ambler

Collaborative specifications workshops around the whiteboard are intense and highly valuable:

  • they create a collective dynamic leading to a stronger decision
  • they are a incredible source of discovery and creativity
  • they are interactive, playful, never boring
  • they focus on visual and touch through direct manipulation

Several specifications workshops take place during an agile sprint.

Some are dedicated to the scope (user stories) of the current sprint; other (also called Product Backlog refinement) serve to explore, refine, model collectively user stories envisioned for the next sprint. Some teams I coach organize this specification workshop, just in time, the last day of the current sprint (i.e. Friday afternoon) after the Sprint review & Retrospective in order to be ready for the Monday sprint planning.

Other teams organize it in the middle of the sprint in order to have time for requirement exploration, testing, business modeling or quick user research….

Whiteboard prototyping

Whiteboard prototyping

Design & specification workshops give the necessary context and conversational elements so crucial to User Stories. They enable to illustrate and clarify the conditions of satisfaction while delivering valuable examples.

Take a picture of the results with you camera, and you have a useful element to associate with your user story description written in the wiki!

Balsamiq Mockups

Balsamiq is an electronic tool that I recommend to agile teams (complementary with paper and whitebooard). Easy to use and allowing very rapid sketching, the application presents a large library of UI components (build-in and from the users’ community), many templates, export possibilities and precious plugins for Confluence or  Jira users.

Example of wireframe with Balsamiq

Example of wireframe with Balsamiq

I use the tool with several co-located team and in distributed contexts offshore via screen sharing: in both cases the contribution of the tool was welcomed by teams and Product Owners “a useful tool that serves human activities“.

The sketchy format also has its interest: it lets you focus design conversations on functionality. No risk to forget the reality!

You must focus on your working software deliveries to measure you project progress. Wireframe is a communication tool.

Balsamiq Mockups can be used to model any type of interface: web portal and websites, software application, mobile interfaces…

This is not a free tool but the price / quality ratio is excellent.