UX in an Agile Development Process

ux in agile development

I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday about Agile development environments and how it is difficult to evangelize usability and design with UX in mind. While I argued that it was completely possible to keep usability as a priority while still scrumming constantly and pushing the envelope of development, I realize that in larger organizations that may not have project managers who are UX focused, that the module aspect of agile development can really play havoc with the overall usability of the website/application of product.

While looking around online, I found a great article on User Interface Engineering that covered 12 Best Practices for UX in an Agile Environment, Part 1 & Part 2.

The basics are:

  1. UX practitioners members are part of the Product ownership team
  2. Prioritize users for persona, modeling and research
  3. Chunking the design work, or user tasks
  4. Use parallel track development, moving back and forth in design work
  5. Get more design time for difficult design sections of the project with easy IX work out of the way first
  6. Keep a large group of validation users available
  7. Schedule continuous user research in a separate track from development
  8. Utilize user testing for multiple purposes (similar to #4)
  9. use RITE to iteratively test UI before development
  10. Prototype in low fidelity (consumables vs deliverables)
  11. Treat the prototype as the documentation/specifications
  12. As a UX practitioner, you should become a design facilitator, gathering ideas and deciding how to chunk them out

The details about each of these ‘best practices’ can be found in Jeff Patton’s article and I recommend reading it if you are a UX professional working in an Agile development environment.

An additional quote from the article I found sobering was:

Two secrets to success in software development are:

  1. Start sooner
  2. Build less software

There may be shortcuts in using the Agile system, but nothing can replace good usability research and focusing your team on one product at a time.

Why I Returned the Blackberry Storm

rejected

In a previous post, I talked about Why I got the Balckberry Storm. A couple days ago, I returned it and went back to a non-smart phone. Let me tell you why.

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have gotten quite used to (and fallen a little in love with) my iPod Touch.

When my Motorola Razr finally died about a month and a half ago, I toyed with the idea of switching to AT&T just so I could get the iPhone. In my research, it seemed that AT&T cell & 3G coverage just does not compare with that of Verizon (whom I have been with for nearly 8 years now).

I decided to try out the Blackberry Storm (see the post to know more about why).

  • From the very first day I had it, the Storm gave me trouble. I was not used to the ‘click’ touch screen. it required that I touch-select, then click the screen to activate. This is supposed to help avoid unwanted activations, but I just found it created a more frustrating and time consuming interface.
  • Dialing phone numbers required additional layers of menus, click the phone icon, then click the contacts, or click the recent calls, then searching, which was not as simple as the ‘swish’ glide you get with the iPhone, but instead, required multiple strokes across the screen to move to each new name.
  • Downloading music and other applications was a time consuming, and ultimately pointless endeavor as there wasn’t really a good media browser on the Storm anyways.
  • The Storm would not sync with my Mac laptops without downloading and installing additional applications (either free or paid) and having to get multiple applications to all work together and I do most of my computing on the Macs these days so this was a major frustration.
  • At this time there are no (supported) third party applications for the Storm. Supposedly there will be a RIM Application store available by Spring 2009, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • The fact that Blackberry is just trying their hand at touchscreen interfaces, the Storm was still extremely buggy. I am a bit of a power user and pushed the device (obviously) to its current limits with downloads, applications, internet browsing and streaming of music. It was crashing and freezing up multiple times each week I had it.

Are these reasons for other people not to get it? Absolutely not. Overall, I think that as an alternative to the iPhone on the Verizon network, the Storm is a good phone. For those that are used to the RIM style of organization (I actually really like the smart menu button) the Storm will satisfy.

For those that are looking for something similar to the coolness and usability of the iPhone, the Storm still has not got what it takes. Maybe give it another year to work out the bugs, clean up the interface and make some usability changes.

Sixth Sense Seamless Technology

Ted continues to be cutting edge and exciting.

The idea of having pertinent, semantically appropriate information literally at your fingertips in the moments you need it to make a decision about your next action is what we really want. This technology could make it happen. Its called Sixth Sense and is being developed by Fluid Interfaces (formally Ambient Intelligence) at the MIT Media Lab.

Touch and gestural interfaces are great, but this takes your Microsoft table idea and makes it mobile. It can be anywhere, including on the surface of the people, places and products you are interacting with. The usability of this technology looks like it could be completely intuitive and easy, which is what will make it adoptable by the general public.

The video of Dr. Pattie Maes presenting at TED is the best way to understand what they are working on and how it will apply to your daily life.

Apple iPhone 3.0 Software

iphone 3.0

Some invitations went out today (I still haven’t received mine, Jobs!) for the March 17th conference in Cupertino to talk about the latest iPhone software and SDK that will be released.

The 2.0 software release about a year ago hailed in the flood of third party applications that made the app store a primary destination for all us iPhone and iPod Touch enthusiasts.

See my iPhone free game reviews.

Apple seems to have been focusing more on hardware rather than software this last year (or so we thought). There is little information about what this new update will entail, and we can probably not expect Steve Jobs to host it, as he still remains on medical leave.

Reviewing a Website

As usability consultants, we are often asked to look at websites and give our ‘opinion’. It is important that we keep the most important factors in mind when looking at a website from the outside when WE are the users. A great article about reviewing websites on UX Matters.

http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2009/02/reviewing-user-interfaces.php