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Re: [agile-usability] incremental design -vs- overall user experience

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  • Brian O'Byrne
    Jeff, ... Certainly in my experience there is a value in planning the flows and interaction up-front and capturing that in some formal or semi-formal manner.
    Message 1 of 38 , Jul 14, 2004
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      Jeff,

      On Wednesday 14 July 2004 01:48, Jeff Grigg wrote:
      > I can't claim to be an expert on user interface design or agile
      > methods, but here's a thought that's been bothering me for a while:
      >
      > It's been my experience that systems that "grow organically" over
      > time often have bad user interfaces. New features are often buried
      > deep within the existing user interface structure, making it hard
      > to find. New reports, for example, are added as buttons or menu
      > options deep in the work flow, where they're first needed, but
      > *not* made available from higher level menus.
      >
      > I've found that drawing screen flow diagrams of the overall system
      > illustrates these problems and guides redesign of the GUI to make
      > the system more usable.
      >
      > But...
      > How can one avoid this problem in "organically growing" systems?
      >
      > Does the "overall user experience" need to be planned up-front,
      > even when functionality is implemented incrementally?

      Certainly in my experience there is a value in planning the flows and
      interaction up-front and capturing that in some formal or semi-formal
      manner.

      To take two examples from a recent employer:
      One project involved an application system for financial services.
      There was no interaction design produced up-front. The requirements
      included being flexible enough to take applications for new financial
      products as they were introduced.
      The UI on that project quickly became very brittle in the face of
      change. As new products came on line or the application process
      changed more than half the development time was spent working around
      this brittle user interface instead of dealing with the business
      model.
      After some time dealing with this mess the PM invested some time in
      drawing a chart describing the user interaction. This chart showed
      the unwanted dependencies and useless paths through the system and
      allowed him to plan future changes with this information in hand. He
      was then able to show a business case for refactoring the UI to
      simplify future changes.

      Another project was a pilot for a large desktop application to be
      deployed to help customer-facing staff in a retail network. The pilot
      was spec'd to include about 20% of the anticipated feature set.
      An interaction design for the pilot was prepared as a UML statechart.
      The pilot was deployed successfully and work is now underway to build
      the bulk of the feature set. The UI components of the new features
      are being added to the chart and as far as I know it is going well.
      (I was involved in the pilot on that project, but am not involved in
      the current work.)

      > As project direction changes during implementation, what triggers
      > you to recognize that the user interface flow needs to be
      > redesigned to most effectively support the new business
      > requirements you've discovered?

      I think there is a bias in your question you need to be aware of: the
      idea that the UI flow supports the business requirements. Maybe I am
      just nit-picking here, but I think it important to see the UI as
      serving the users rather than the business. You can have business
      requirements that are met by the model or persistence while being
      entirely independent of the UI, while you can have UI improvements
      that are completely irrelevant to the business (except that they make
      the users happier).

      So if I can take the liberty of changing the question to: What
      triggers you to recognise that the UI flow needs to be redesigned to
      most effectively support the users? The answer is some combination of
      listening to the users' questions and comments and testing (role
      playing, prototyping and UAT).

      Brian.
      --
      Brian O'Byrne, Statesoft Ltd.
      Tel: +353 1 4498 151, +353 86 240 4719
      http://www.statesoft.ie/
    • katharina9267
      Larry, This is without a doubt an issue that I came across in my experience as a usability manager. Do you suggest that this work should be done in iteration 0
      Message 38 of 38 , May 30, 2007
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        Larry,

        This is without a doubt an issue that I came across in my experience
        as a usability manager.

        Do you suggest that this work should be done in iteration 0 using the
        agile methodology? This seems to be increasingly a recommendation in
        a number of white papers and publications such as Scott Ambler.
        However, when you say 'minimal effort' how does this translate into
        time scales - is there an average that you work with in your
        experience let's say 1-2 weeks?

        I also appreciate, if you could forward the pdfs on the collaborative
        UI review method that you mentioned in a previous message.
        Many thanks,
        Katharina

        --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Larry Constantine"
        <lconstantine@...> wrote:
        >
        > Jeff,
        >
        > An effective way around this problem is to draft a navigation
        architecture
        > (screen flow) in advance based on provisional understanding of user
        roles
        > and tasks in the application. This architecture gives a reasonably
        well
        > thought out framework on which to hang the features and functions
        as they
        > arise "organically." The navigation architecture is itself reviewed
        and
        > refactored as needed as the details of the application emerge. This
        approach
        > is what I describe as "architecture-first development" in the new
        Cutter
        > Report on agility and usability. It's proven to be a good
        compromise that
        > yields maximal payoff in maintaining a sound UI organization with
        bare
        > minimal upfront investment.
        >
        > --Larry Constantine
        > Chief Scientist | Constantine & Lockwood, Ltd.
        >
        >
        > -----Original Message-----
        > From: Jeff Grigg [mailto:jeffgrigg@...]
        > Sent: Tuesday, 13 July 2004 7:48 PM
        > To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
        > Subject: [agile-usability] incremental design -vs- overall user
        experience
        >
        > I can't claim to be an expert on user interface design or agile
        > methods, but here's a thought that's been bothering me for a while:
        >
        > It's been my experience that systems that "grow organically" over
        > time often have bad user interfaces. New features are often buried
        > deep within the existing user interface structure, making it hard
        to
        > find. New reports, for example, are added as buttons or menu
        > options deep in the work flow, where they're first needed, but
        *not*
        > made available from higher level menus.
        >
        > I've found that drawing screen flow diagrams of the overall system
        > illustrates these problems and guides redesign of the GUI to make
        > the system more usable.
        >
        > But...
        > How can one avoid this problem in "organically growing" systems?
        >
        > Does the "overall user experience" need to be planned up-front,
        even
        > when functionality is implemented incrementally?
        >
        > As project direction changes during implementation, what triggers
        > you to recognize that the user interface flow needs to be
        redesigned
        > to most effectively support the new business requirements you've
        > discovered?
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
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