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6587Re: New to Agile Usability

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  • Tara L. Schnaible
    Nov 16, 2009
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      This is how my non-profit has inserted Usability/UX (over the past year or so) into our Agile projects.  I suspect there isn’t a best way.  (so take this with a grain of salt)


      Our UX work in a waterfall process largely involved usability testing, not UI work.  We quickly learned that it’s essential for UX to be consulted during the design phase (if not to help work on the designs).  While you can, in a waterfall process, build in additional time post-development to address UI changes found during usability testing – for us, this is a nightmare in Agile unless you begin to dedicate full (subsequent) iterations to changes stemming from usability testing. 

      I strongly believe at this point that UX has the most impact in the design and development phase – and usability testing should only confirm that your prior activities hit their mark.  Formal usability tests only have a place at the end of an iteration (as the aforementioned confirmation).  During design and development we rely heavily on quick-hit tests using paper prototypes or sketches and people we corner in the hallway to be our guinea pigs for those tests.  Design work happens in an iteration prior to the dev work (not quite Agile, I think, but we need time to work together and collaborate via email/phone/etc.)

      We work remotely (nearly all of us are distributed across the US) – which poses some interesting challenges.  We work on designs and mockups in Balsamiq and PDF (because these programs are fast to learn, easily visible by anyone, and (remotely) a visual design is easier to discuss than a written one).  We have daily Scrum calls that often exceed their 15 minute marks (we don’t have the luxury of shouting over a wall during the rest of our days).  We use IM, email and other electronic communication tools – and in a way we begin to document our processes through these electronic methods.


      Not quite perfect, and it doesn’t always work out the way we intend it to – however so far we haven’t seen another method that works better for our distributed, low-budget (non-profit) environment.


      Maybe that helps?? Hope so!


      Tara Schnaible

      Usability Analyst

      The Nature Conservancy



      (312) 580-2359


      "You can't 'demand' that people be more logical. Emotion is part of the human animal." -Rick Perlstein


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