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Re: [agile-usability] Role of UCD in agile processes

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  • Gary Macomber
    Hi, Was just reflecting on this after the past week. For the first time in my career I had to convince folks to let me do more than just design. It took me 2
    Message 1 of 17 , Jan 29, 2005
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      Hi,

      Was just reflecting on this after the past week. For
      the first time in my career I had to convince folks to
      let me do more than just design. It took me 2 days to
      get everyone to agree that usability testing was
      important! My prior experience is more like what Hugh
      describes though...

      gary

      --- Hugh Beyer <beyer@...> wrote:


      ---------------------------------
      Hey guys -- I was reading old notes to this list and
      had a sudden news flash
      which is maybe obvious to everyone else, but maybe not
      -- what I realized is
      that being a usability person on an agile product is
      going to require a
      total change in your thinking. Presumably, you're
      there to help implement
      the customer role--be the customer voice on the team.
      But that's going to
      require that you behave not as a usability person,
      looking at a completed
      design and searching for holes but that you operate as
      a
      designer--conceptualizing the work of the users,
      thinking about a design
      response and organizing that response into screens and
      interfaces.

      Usability people have known from just about day one
      that they had to do such
      things, of course. But the placement of usability
      after development produces
      something to test meant that the problem was somewhat
      hidden. Now it's out
      front--you aren't a usability person anymore, you're
      something else.

      Or am I out to lunch?

      Hugh



      Hugh R. Beyer
      CTO, InContext
      2352 Main St., suite 302
      Concord, MA 01742

      978-823-0105 x122
      beyer@...






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    • Hugh Beyer
      _____ From: Ron Vutpakdi [mailto:vutpakdi@acm.org] Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:54 PM To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com Subject: [agile-usability] Re:
      Message 2 of 17 , Jan 30, 2005
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        From: Ron Vutpakdi [mailto:vutpakdi@...]
        Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:54 PM
        To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes

         


        --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Hugh Beyer <beyer@i...> wrote:
        >
        > What got me was realizing that as soon as you become part of an agile
        > customer team, you're really not a usability person at all anymore. Your
        > training may well give you a powerful mindset, but your role is to
        be the
        > customer voice.

        Possibly being a little nitpicky here, but I don't agree that a
        "usability person" should have the role of being the "customer's
        voice."  The customer and the user aren't the same thing.  The
        customer is the fellow buying the system, but the user is the poor
        sucker who has to use it, and the two often aren't the same person.
        The "usability person" has to know about the customer and her
        needs/position/motivation, but the user is the one the "usability
        person" represents.

         

        No argument on content. I’m using “customer” in the Total Quality sense of everyone who depends on the system—direct and indirect users, buyers, etc.

         

        Hugh

         

      • Hugh Beyer
        _____ From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@acm.org] Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2005 2:57 PM To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com Subject: [agile-usability] Re:
        Message 3 of 17 , Jan 30, 2005
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          From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@...]
          Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2005 2:57 PM
          To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes

           

          ·        
          --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
          wrote:
          > Hey guys -- I was reading old notes to this list and had a sudden
          news flash
          > which is maybe obvious to everyone else, but maybe not -- what I
          realized is
          > that being a usability person on an agile product is going to
          require a
          > total change in your thinking.
          ...
          > Now it's out
          > front--you aren't a usability person anymore, you're something else.
          >
          > Or am I out to lunch?

          I regret creating this list with the name agile-usability... I'd just
          came back from the UPA conference last year, and it seemed like most
          folks there were comfortable referring to themselves as usability
          people.  I'm now seeing design - specifically user centered design,
          interaction design, and user interface design as the big hole to be
          plugged, and the activity that the usability people[?] are busy doing
          on agile projects.

          A few weeks ago I put out links to the stuff I'm working on.  One big
          point I'm trying to make is the /when/ you do things on agile
          projects matters alot.  Early discussions about UCD stuff on agile
          projects dealt with the concern that doing design work took too much
          time.  That sort of thinking is wrong IMHO.  I believe it operates
          under the assumption that /all or most of/ the work is done up front -
          so therefore our biggest challenge is figuring out how to do it
          faster.  [I kinda bristled at the title "Rapid Contextual Design" for
          that reason.] 

          It's my experience that UCD /stuff/ by stuff I mean researching,
          modeling, prototyping, testing, doesn't generally take too much
          time.  The agile projects I've been on really do have the time...
          it's the _timing_ that's an issue.  Some research and modeling needs
          to be done ahead of release planning.  Some decisions about workflow
          and navigation structure should be made ahead of iteration planning. 
          UI prototyping should be ahead of storywriting.  UI prototyping
          doesn't need to be all completed before any code is written. 
          Navigation and workflow can change a bit at each iteration as we
          learn more and functionality is added or changed.  Models and
          features can change periodically during and after releases as we get
          feedback from using and testing the software we're building. 

          Basically, do all the same UCD stuff - just synchronize it with your
          agile lifecycle.

          And, Hugh - to where your original comments were going, I see UCD
          people as designers working in step with development, coaching
          customers, developers, and business people.  The usability thing is a
          part of that that usually comes a bit later.  And as to your change
          in thinking comment - I find that whole projects become user
          centered.  This sort of thinking permeates every activity.  Does that
          square with your observations on your current projects?

          My favorite story about this... on a project some years ago, we were working with a customer/UI design/user experience design team that interfaced with a development team in a very XP-ish kind of way, though it was not an XP project. After some time—enough time for everyone to get comfortable with the new roles—one of the developers on the user team came to us and said he was planning to go back to development. We were all worried and asked what was wrong and why he wasn’t happy. His response was, “I’m very happy but I like developing. Now that I’ve seen what you’re doing I know I can trust your process. So if you come and tell me to paint it purple, I’ll paint it purple because I’ll know you have a good reason for it.”

          Moral being that the whole team may become user-centered in attitude—but part of that is knowing when to listen to the parts of the team that are more in contact with the user than you are. This is being duplicated in teams we’re working with now—the developers are getting to the point where they prefer to come to our folks rather than make off-the-cuff design decisions because they know we’ve got the closer user contact. Which—to bring the conversation back to XP—is as it should be.

                      Hugh

        • Jeff Patton
          ... were working ... interfaced with a ... XP ... comfortable with ... said he ... asked what ... happy but I ... trust ... paint it ... attitude-but ... that
          Message 4 of 17 , Feb 1, 2005
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            --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
            wrote:
            > My favorite story about this... on a project some years ago, we
            were working
            > with a customer/UI design/user experience design team that
            interfaced with a
            > development team in a very XP-ish kind of way, though it was not an
            XP
            > project. After some time-enough time for everyone to get
            comfortable with
            > the new roles-one of the developers on the user team came to us and
            said he
            > was planning to go back to development. We were all worried and
            asked what
            > was wrong and why he wasn't happy. His response was, "I'm very
            happy but I
            > like developing. Now that I've seen what you're doing I know I can
            trust
            > your process. So if you come and tell me to paint it purple, I'll
            paint it
            > purple because I'll know you have a good reason for it."
            >
            > Moral being that the whole team may become user-centered in
            attitude-but
            > part of that is knowing when to listen to the parts of the team
            that are
            > more in contact with the user than you are. This is being
            duplicated in
            > teams we're working with now-the developers are getting to the
            point where
            > they prefer to come to our folks rather than make off-the-cuff
            design
            > decisions because they know we've got the closer user contact.
            Which-to
            > bring the conversation back to XP-is as it should be.
            >

            I've seen that play out as well - sort of. By injecting teams with
            user profiles and task models - UCD artifacts and thinking, and
            publicly using those to make design decisions developers [and
            analysts and users] learn that design decisions aren't really made
            off the cuff. They're informed decisions. I observe two resulting
            behaviors: as you describe, developers and others trust the design
            process more and seek out designers for specific advice; or,
            alternatively, developers and others use the models to start making
            some informed decisions on their own.

            I've always been pushing for developers and others to gain that
            understanding so they can make day to day decisions on their own -
            and indeed some do. But more of them choose to defer to designers.
            Possibly my hopes at everyone becoming a designer to some degree are
            unrealistic.

            Have you observed others learning UCD thinking and successfully
            making decisions on their own? Has this helped or hindered things?

            thanks,

            -Jeff
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