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Interesting Agile UX Experience Report

04 Nov, 2010

Johnny Holland Magazine has published a very interesting experience report by Jeff Gothelf describing how The Ladders integrated user experience design (UX) into Agile. This is a topic that an increasing number of teams are struggling with, and most of the proposed solutions so far haven't rung true. A lot of them focused on staggered sprints--that is, having the UX folks work one iteration ahead of the rest of the team--which is really just cramming waterfall techniques into an Agile lifecycle.

Jeff Gothelf's report stands out for two reasons. First, they moved beyond staggered sprints to a truly agile solution. Second, it's clear that their experience is based on practice, not theorizing. In the report, Jeff describes an evolving approach to Agile UX, with what worked and failed at each step and how they evolved their practices. Bravo.

Despite all of this upfront research, preparation, conversation, and insight, our first attempt at integrating UX into Agile yielded the diagram below. This was created by the UX team after a UX-only retrospective where we detailed all the challenges we were facing in this new world. All paths in the flow lead to the center of the diagram reading "[agile] creates a NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENT that FOSTERS FAILURE and generates LOW MORALE." It is safe to say our first attempt was a failure.

Read it here, and use their ideas as a starting point for your own experiments.

PS: One thing I don't see in Jeff's report is a discussion of how they keep the big picture in mind. Many Agile teams struggle with this, and I'd bet they do to. So that's a place to experiment. My preferred approach is through the use of MMFs and a dedicated on-team product manager, for example.