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Re: Integrated Usability in Agile teams from the trenches :)

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  • unbreakablepo
    Can you (or others) comment more about iRise and other interaction design tools? We are considering a very similar process to the one you described with paper
    Message 1 of 10 , Feb 5, 2011
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      Can you (or others) comment more about iRise and other interaction design tools? We are considering a very similar process to the one you described with paper prototypes, etc but are also thinking about using light weight "click-throughs" using Adobe Fireworks / Flash Catalyst to get feedback without needing to use our limited development team time.

      My assumption is that we must include developers in discussions of feasibility etc. Have people run into major problems with this?
    • William Pietri
      ... I have no idea if our situation applies to anybody else, but my (non-technical) partner will whip together clickable mockups in OmniGraffle for certain
      Message 2 of 10 , Feb 6, 2011
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        On 02/05/2011 02:07 PM, unbreakablepo wrote:
        Can you (or others) comment more about iRise and other interaction design tools?  We are considering a very similar process to the one you described with paper prototypes, etc but are also thinking about using light weight "click-throughs" using Adobe Fireworks / Flash Catalyst to get feedback without needing to use our limited development team time.
        
        My assumption is that we must include developers in discussions of feasibility etc.  Have people run into major problems with this?
        
        

        I have no idea if our situation applies to anybody else, but my (non-technical) partner will whip together clickable mockups in OmniGraffle for certain sorts of user testing. In cases where we need a little more functionality we'll go straight from whiteboard sketches or handwaving to simple HTML/CSS/JS mockups, often with an assist from a visual designer. If we need to mutate an existing site, we'll sometimes use Greasemonkey.

        All of these happen only when we need to test some particular interface hypothesis with live people in controlled conditions. For testing more complicated things, we build simple fakes or prototypes and run real traffic against them (sometimes from ads, sometimes user testers, sometimes known people).

        To me as a developer, the main advantage of OmniGraffle is that it lets my partner noodle with an idea without me being a bottleneck. But I've worked hard to become better at just banging out throw-away test prototypes, because I think we get more interesting data out of them. Thanks to the rise of CSS and tools like jQuery and Rails, I think the cost of those prototypes has declined a lot, and when it comes time to build more real things, I definitely appreciate the insight I've gained from working on the research.

        So as we grow, I'm going to try to find ways to keep design and development as tightly integrated as they are now.

        William

      • mattspost77
        I have a number of strong reservations regarding this article, especially about the apparent lack of understanding for the UI and UX aspects of any design work
        Message 3 of 10 , Feb 10, 2011
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          I have a number of strong reservations regarding this article, especially about the apparent lack of understanding for the UI and UX aspects of any design work within a project, when it is involved in the Agile process.

          To just pull out a few lines from the article:

          "Primarily it was a case of not wanting reality to hinder the pretty designs they were making in photoshop or Illustrator"

          I think this is a facetious statement by Robin Dymond who misses the point of the design and UI role. His stand point seems to be one that values code and speed of work over design without, it seems, understanding or appreciating the value that design has both for the customer and the business.

          A customer/user goes to a website and within 3 seconds makes up their mind that the site is trustworthy, of quality, aspirational or best in class because of the visual impression the site gives them. A website / 'Shop front' is reliant on design (UI and UX) to draw those feelings and emotions from a person, lead them to purchase and ultimately reassure them that what they are purchasing and who they are purchasing from is of the best quality.
          'Product personality' influences and affects our perceptions. You get drawn into a shop on the high street or mall as what it's showing you is appealing and is stimulating your senses, the shop front / window is working hard selling you the product before you even enter the store, at the same time it has to convince and reassure you that it is better than the other shop selling near enough the same product just next door. It really isn't because you think it has amazing cash registers or the best 'chip and pin' machines..
          Is it possible to imagine a car manufacturer designing an amazing engine and chassis, best in class even, only then to put a second rate body on it or the controls in an awkward place for the driver.. And then still expect people to buy it or aspire to own it just because it has an amazing engine and chassis? No probably not. So attention to detail and good design is by no means a hinderance to the process, its an important and integral part of the business, user experience and emotion / reassurance felt by the customer.

          Lets take the term 'pretty' and replace it with Aesthetics. Now it has nothing to do with 'pretty' - It has everything to do with aesthetics. Stephen P. Anderson wrote in the article "In Defense of Eye Candy" that "Aesthetics is not just about artistic merit of web buttons or other visual effects, but about how people respond to these elements. The question becomes: how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behaviour?" For the answer I would suggest you read his article: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/indefenseofeyecandy
          What we need to understand is that its not about something being 'pretty', but as user experience professionals, we must consider every stimulus that influences interactions, so it has everything to do with appeal, trust, quality, reassurance, aspiration and more. Without which, products wouldn't sell, people would choose an alternative 'shop front' and ultimately become loyal customers elsewhere.

          - I would like to add, that design isn't something that just 'happens', it takes time. It is something that has to be thought about, researched, understood, created and designed. None of these parts are done in an instant, they all take time to get right. - This is something that this article ignores.


          "UX people are the slowest and most resistant to adopting Agile principles and practices"
          - 'UX people' are probably the slowest and most resistant because they are constantly seeing and thinking about things from the customer / user perspective, and anything that is unproven in their eyes or introduced that is radically different, potentially lessening the quality of the UX, at the expense of getting something out quicker, will not be greeted with open arms, unless it is clear that it is at least as good as the process currently in place.


          "Don't embellish with new features UX thinks would be cool"
          - Robin Dymond's negative attitude towards UX improvements is really un-constructive. 'New features' are always going to be introduced, not because they are considered 'cool' but because they improve the experience for the user / customer! If new features weren't introduced, then websites would be stuck in the 1990's with left aligned, vertical sidebar navigation and no real thought about what is best for the customer / user.


          "An unstable UI design is usually driven by a lack of knowledge about the customer requirements and technical limitations."

          - Could the 'lack of knowledge about the customer requirements' be due to rushing through the process, without being able to thoroughly research or think about the UI (or even UX) from a customer perspective? Anyone (hopefully) who designs for the user would have the knowledge and understanding of what 'ingredients' are needed to create an easy to use UI, whilst giving it the look and feel that reassures the customer that the site is one of quality.


          My final thought about this article is this… "Designing a product is designing a relationship"

          "Designing a product is designing a relationship" - The product in this situation is our website – our "Shop front". That is what our customers and potential customers base their initial feelings / emotions on, feelings of trust, quality, reassurance. If they don't get those emotions then our 'audience' is harder to convince that we are the right business insurance place for them.


          I'm open and accepting to the Agile process, though my concern as both a web and UX designer is that if we're not careful we will end up with a 'patchwork quilt' of a website, which lacks consistency and has a poor customer / user experience.
        • William Pietri
          Hi, Matt! Welcome to the group. I get the impression that you have misunderstood Robin s intent. I think his concerns about behaviors that some UX people have
          Message 4 of 10 , Feb 11, 2011
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            Hi, Matt! Welcome to the group.

            I get the impression that you have misunderstood Robin's intent. I think his concerns about behaviors that some UX people have when confronted with Agile approaches is reasonable. Perhaps you could suppose that he values UX as much as you but still said the things he did? He's been participating here since 2004, so I figure he has to care about the UX.

            My startup does consumer web stuff, and these days that lives and dies by the user experience. Two hours ago we finished some user tests on particular bits of the UI. One hour ago I was revising the UI based on the feedback. Shortly I'll release it into production, and Monday morning we'll do user tests on the new UI. To people from a traditional waterfall design background I'm sure that sounds insane, but in our view, it's far more effective at creating good experiences. My concern about Robin's approach isn't that it's too fast; it's that it's too slow.

            William



            On 02/10/2011 05:05 AM, mattspost77 wrote:
            
            I have a number of strong reservations regarding this article, especially about the apparent lack of understanding for the UI and UX aspects of any design work within a project, when it is involved in the Agile process.
             
            To just pull out a few lines from the article:
             
            "Primarily it was a case of not wanting reality to hinder the pretty designs they were making in photoshop or Illustrator"
             
            I think this is a facetious statement by Robin Dymond who misses the point of the design and UI role. His stand point seems to be one that values code and speed of work over design without, it seems, understanding or appreciating the value that design has both for the customer and the business.
             
            A customer/user goes to a website and within 3 seconds makes up their mind that the site is trustworthy, of quality, aspirational or best in class because of the visual impression the site gives them. A website / 'Shop front' is reliant on design (UI and UX) to draw those feelings and emotions from a person, lead them to purchase and ultimately reassure them that what they are purchasing and who they are purchasing from is of the best quality.
            'Product personality' influences and affects our perceptions. You get drawn into a shop on the high street or mall as what it's showing you is appealing and is stimulating your senses, the shop front / window is working hard selling you the product before you even enter the store, at the same time it has to convince and reassure you that it is better than the other shop selling near enough the same product just next door. It really isn't because you think it has amazing cash registers or the best 'chip and pin' machines..
            Is it possible to imagine a car manufacturer designing an amazing engine and chassis, best in class even, only then to put a second rate body on it or the controls in an awkward place for the driver.. And then still expect people to buy it or aspire to own it just because it has an amazing engine and chassis? No probably not. So attention to detail and good design is by no means a hinderance to the process, its an important and integral part of the business, user experience and emotion / reassurance felt by the customer.
             
            Lets take the term 'pretty' and replace it with Aesthetics. Now it has nothing to do with 'pretty' - It has everything to do with aesthetics. Stephen P. Anderson wrote in the article "In Defense of Eye Candy" that "Aesthetics is not just about artistic merit of web buttons or other visual effects, but about how people respond to these elements. The question becomes: how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behaviour?" For the answer I would suggest you read his article: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/indefenseofeyecandy
            What we need to understand is that its not about something being 'pretty', but as user experience professionals, we must consider every stimulus that influences interactions, so it has everything to do with appeal, trust, quality, reassurance, aspiration and more. Without which, products wouldn't sell, people would choose an alternative 'shop front' and ultimately become loyal customers elsewhere.
             
            - I would like to add, that design isn't something that just 'happens', it takes time. It is something that has to be thought about, researched, understood, created and designed. None of these parts are done in an instant, they all take time to get right. - This is something that this article ignores.
             
             
            "UX people are the slowest and most resistant to adopting Agile principles and practices"
            - 'UX people' are probably the slowest and most resistant because they are constantly seeing and thinking about things from the customer / user perspective, and anything that is unproven in their eyes or introduced that is radically different, potentially lessening the quality of the UX, at the expense of getting something out quicker, will not be greeted with open arms, unless it is clear that it is at least as good as the process currently in place. 
             
             
            "Don't embellish with new features UX thinks would be cool"
            -  Robin Dymond's negative attitude towards UX improvements is really un-constructive. 'New features' are always going to be introduced, not because they are considered 'cool' but because they improve the experience for the user / customer! If new features weren't introduced, then websites would be stuck in the 1990's with left aligned, vertical sidebar navigation and no real thought about what is best for the customer / user.
             
             
            "An unstable UI design is usually driven by a lack of knowledge about the customer requirements and technical limitations."
             
            - Could the 'lack of knowledge about the customer requirements' be due to rushing through the process, without being able to thoroughly research or think about the UI (or even UX) from a customer perspective? Anyone (hopefully) who designs for the user would have the knowledge and understanding of what 'ingredients' are needed to create an easy to use UI, whilst giving it the look and feel that reassures the customer that the site is one of quality.
             
             
            My final thought about this article is this…  "Designing a product is designing a relationship"
             
            "Designing a product is designing a relationship" - The product in this situation is our website – our "Shop front". That is what our customers and potential customers base their initial feelings / emotions on, feelings of trust, quality, reassurance. If they don't get those emotions then our 'audience' is harder to convince that we are the right business insurance place for them.
             
             
            I'm open and accepting to the Agile process, though my concern as both a web and UX designer is that if we're not careful we will end up with a 'patchwork quilt' of a website, which lacks consistency and has a poor customer / user experience.
            
            
            
            
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          • Austin Govella
            ... I would love to see an article on his concerns about behaviors that some developers have when confronted with UX. -- Austin Govella User Experience Work:
            Message 5 of 10 , Feb 11, 2011
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              On Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 8:08 PM, William Pietri <william@...> wrote:
              > I get the impression that you have misunderstood Robin's intent. I think his
              > concerns about behaviors that some UX people have when confronted with
              > Agile approaches is reasonable.

              I would love to see an article on his concerns about behaviors that
              some developers have when confronted with UX.





              --
              Austin Govella
              User Experience

              Work: http://www.grafofini.com
              Blog: http://www.thinkingandmaking.com

              austin@...
              215-240-1265
            • Robin Dymond
              Hi Matt, (Warning long post, no time to shorten) I simply don t see a difference between the contributions of UI, dev, test, db, etc. I could make persuasive
              Message 6 of 10 , Feb 16, 2011
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                Hi Matt,

                (Warning long post, no time to shorten)

                I simply don't see a difference between the contributions of UI, dev,
                test, db, etc. I could make persuasive arguments that would emphasize
                the importance of any of these activities over the others. The reality
                is we need all of these activities together to deliver excellent
                products. The higher the level of understanding in the team of each
                other's contributions the more effective the team. I am critiquing the
                common misconception that it is only possible to do UI in one way,
                before development. Its not true, and the result is a less effective
                development process. The arguments you make are the same arguments
                traditional QA managers make to keep testing at the end of the
                project. They are the arguments Database developers use to justify for
                building and optimizing the whole data model before developers start
                on the server.
                A high res UI in irise is about as useful as an L1 normed database
                model. Both are local optimizations, and neither are useful to a
                customer. Both contain major assumptions and do not consider the
                constraints imposed by the operational context of the system. Worse,
                because both appear "done" they cause problems managing stake holder
                expectations.

                True story: A Bank I consulted on Agile hired a Boston Consulting guy
                to help them with their web presence. He baffled many VPs with his
                ideas on users, terms like user anthropology and ethnocentric bla bla
                were bandied about. He convinced management that a UI team was needed
                to create the user experience. I warned the scrummaster of the issues,
                but she didn't have the clout and I was in another group. They used
                Scrum and every 2 weeks they delivered screens in irise. They ran for
                around 10 sprints before they declared that they were done. They
                demoed their UI concept to many high level managers who then offered
                lots of opinions on the colors that needed to be changed and things
                that needed to be re-arranged.

                4 months later the same managers were wondering why the new UI wasn't
                up. They had been told that there was no backend, however they had
                seen the UI.

                The backend reality was many disparate systems for loans, savings,
                credit cards, mortgage, investments, etc. The reality was that large
                data warehouses needed to be created to isolate the web from the
                backend complexity. The reality is syncing warehouses and systems
                created constraints that were not accounted for in the UI. When the
                first version of the site was released many of the stakeholders were
                disappointed. The reality was a major feat had been accomplished,
                however the stakeholders had approved a UI concept, and the first
                release needed a different UI solution that took into account the
                constraints of the bank's operations.

                Was there some value in the 3 months of UI design? Sure. However that
                value could have been captured with much less investment, much
                quicker, and with a better result if the teams had been delivering
                working tested software every sprint. stakeholders and VPs would have
                had better insight and could have contributed more effectively if they
                had seen the system evolve instead of seeing only a completed UI
                concept.

                Cheers,
                Robin.

                On 2/12/11, Austin Govella <austin.govella@...> wrote:
                > On Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 8:08 PM, William Pietri <william@...> wrote:
                >> I get the impression that you have misunderstood Robin's intent. I think
                >> his
                >> concerns about behaviors that some UX people have when confronted with
                >> Agile approaches is reasonable.
                >
                > I would love to see an article on his concerns about behaviors that
                > some developers have when confronted with UX.
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > --
                > Austin Govella
                > User Experience
                >
                > Work: http://www.grafofini.com
                > Blog: http://www.thinkingandmaking.com
                >
                > austin@...
                > 215-240-1265
                >

                --
                Sent from my mobile device

                Robin Dymond, CST
                Managing Partner, Innovel, LLC.
                www.innovel.net
                www.scrumtraining.com
                Americas: (804) 239-4329
                Europe: +32 489 674 366
              • William Pietri
                ... Yes! I used to have a collection of diagrams that showed the proper relationship between different specialties on a software project. They were made by all
                Message 7 of 10 , Feb 17, 2011
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                  On 02/16/2011 05:38 AM, Robin Dymond wrote:
                  I simply don't see a difference between the contributions of UI, dev,
                  test, db, etc. I could make persuasive arguments that would emphasize
                  the importance of any of these activities over the others. The reality
                  is we need all of these activities together to deliver excellent
                  products.

                  Yes!

                  I used to have a collection of diagrams that showed the proper relationship between different specialties on a software project. They were made by all sorts of people.

                  As you would expect, the diagrams varied wildly. But they had one thing in common: the author's specialty was the most special. Maybe they were central. Maybe they came first. Maybe they got final approval. Maybe all of those! But their basic point was that if only they were in charge, everything would go swimmingly.

                  I say it's all bunk, and that whole projects require whole teams.

                  William
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