None of the projects I work on follow an Agile process. Imagine that.
That’s not to say it’s all waterfall but the team I work in, in particular, has too many separate projects on the go to be able to make the most of Scrum or Kanban, sprints and burn-down charts. Our open-plan office would quickly be wall-papered with those charts, if we had one per project!
All this is to say that I have largely ignored discussions about “how do we combine traditional UXD practices, especially up-front user research, with the Agile process?” and more recently, the development of lean UX. There are people whom I respect (people like Adrian Howard, Jeff Gothelf and Johanna Kollman) who know a whole lot about these things… but I’ve rather let it pass me by.
Then I was at UX Lisbon in May, 2012, where Jeff Gothelf spoke about lean UX and building a shared understanding, and I really sat up in my seat. “Hang on,”, I said to myself, “given Jeff’s 5-part definition of lean UX, it looks as though I’m doing that already!”
Do what works: people not process*
I’m involved in a lot less user research or usability testing these days than I used to be, so I focus on other areas and rely on other sources of user info (server logs and helpdesk requests, particularly – gotta love those numbers!).
Given a) my penchant for starting with paper and pen, and sketching interactions and layouts and b) my background in web design, I find that these days, on some projects, I tend to go from sketches and conversation, to HTML+CSS prototypes, and then work with developers to plug that into real data.
That means I can synchronise my work with developers, validate ideas with domain experts (scientists, in my case), and keep the discussion and co-design going. I’ve been thinking about this three-part relationship quite a lot (I gave a proto-talk about it in Cambridge a while ago), and I think the aspect of shared learning is really key. From my perspective, it gives me a way to learn more about a domain, more about what is technically possible (or not), and to help develop the design literacy of my team-mates (and that has to be good, right?).
But I digress… In Jeff’s talk, he described Lean UX like this:
Inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development theories, it’s the practice of bringing the true nature of design work to light faster, in a collaborative, cross-functional way with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed
Sounds pretty good to me. I still don’t think I have anything to do with Agile per se but it really looks as though I am practicing lean UX in some projects. In those cases, where my colleagues and I have a shared understanding and appreciation of each others’ work, it functions really well. In the meantime, work continues on the EBI digital style guide.
* thanks to Ian Fenn for making me think more about “people not process*
How about some sketchnotes?
Sure. Here are my sketchnotes from Jeff’s talk at UX Lx 2012: