Re: [agile-usability] Role of UCD in agile processes
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
--- 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
designer--conceptualizing the work of the users,
thinking about a design
response and organizing that response into screens and
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
Or am I out to lunch?
Hugh R. Beyer
2352 Main St., suite 302
Concord, MA 01742
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From: Ron Vutpakdi [mailto:vutpakdi@...]
Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:54 PM
Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
> 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
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.
From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@...]
Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2005 2:57 PM
Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes
--- In email@example.com, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
> Hey guys -- I was reading old notes to this list and had a sudden
> which is maybe obvious to everyone else, but maybe not -- what I
> that being a usability person on an agile product is going to
> 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
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
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.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
> My favorite story about this... on a project some years ago, wewere working
> with a customer/UI design/user experience design team thatinterfaced with a
> development team in a very XP-ish kind of way, though it was not anXP
> project. After some time-enough time for everyone to getcomfortable with
> the new roles-one of the developers on the user team came to us andsaid he
> was planning to go back to development. We were all worried andasked what
> was wrong and why he wasn't happy. His response was, "I'm veryhappy but I
> like developing. Now that I've seen what you're doing I know I cantrust
> your process. So if you come and tell me to paint it purple, I'llpaint it
> purple because I'll know you have a good reason for it."attitude-but
> Moral being that the whole team may become user-centered in
> part of that is knowing when to listen to the parts of the teamthat are
> more in contact with the user than you are. This is beingduplicated in
> teams we're working with now-the developers are getting to thepoint where
> they prefer to come to our folks rather than make off-the-cuffdesign
> 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
Have you observed others learning UCD thinking and successfully
making decisions on their own? Has this helped or hindered things?