Agile development has recently captured the imagination of many software development teams—and with good reason: its focus on producing working software quickly is well suited to today’s fast-paced markets. But how do you go about combining agile with user-centered design (UCD) so you can enjoy the benefits of both approaches? On the face of it, they should work well together because both philosophies are iterative, incorporating testing with users and refinement. But in practice, they often conflict with one another.
An agile approach such as Scrum tries to minimize up-front planning in favor of producing working code quickly. Plus, agile generally prefers in-situ workshops for gathering requirements, while UCD largely favors up-front user research. Agile also uses working software as its primary measure of progress, while UCD focuses on whether users can easily achieve their goals—with or without software. To add to these discrepancies, because agile is typically led by developers, while UX professionals usually drive UCD, the differences between these two approaches can result in political conflicts in many companies. Read More
Not long after I went independent, a friend who works at a well-known global advertising agency asked if I would be interested in helping out on a high-profile Web site redesign project. I was pretty stoked. He suggested I come in to meet his team. After meeting with the lead developer and project manager, I was told they wanted to bring me on. All I had to do was to meet the creative director.
When he finally got a chance to sit down with me, the first thing he asked was something I wasn’t prepared for: “Can I see your portfolio?”
I hadn’t brought one. “I can give you the URL,” I said. We weren’t near a computer.
His glassy response: “I’m not sure what we have to discuss if I can’t see your work.” And with that he asked that we reschedule for a time when I could come back with my book. Then he left. Read More
Recently, I gave a presentation to a group of User Experience graduate students. (I had graduated from the same program a dozen years ago.) While I found doing this professionally and personally satisfying, it was also refreshing to look at what has changed in UX education and consider what still needs to change. During the Q&A session after my presentation, a student commented, as follows:
“I was really interested in hearing about the soft skills of UX consulting, but to hear you tell the stories of sitting in a room for hours with the business and IT folks and hashing out project issues… well, that just sounds horrifying to me.”
Understandably, this statement was met with numerous nods and smiles of agreement. The focus of my presentation was not entirely on the so-called soft skills that are part of consulting. My presentation was really about the challenges around enterprise user experience. It highlighted the path I had taken in an attempt to help others entering the field to understand that this type of consulting exists in the world of User Experience. But, even though my presentation did not focus primarily on the soft side of UX consulting, soft skills are an important part of what any successful consultant must do. Read More