Why Agile UX in 2013?

New year, new time for reflections and predictions. Like a lot of us, I’ve been struggling to make personal and professional resolutions for the new year. Last year my professional resolution was to honestly try to respect individuals opinions at work – regardless of their specific role. To me, this meant that I had to go beyond seeing designers as having relvant opinions about design, but blow them off if they have an idea about how to solve a hairy client conflict, or let backend architects suggest ideas regarding branding fit. While I see myself as a respectful manager and human being, I recognized in myself, and in others, the tendency to discount opinions of people at work when they have opinions outside of their specific role.

Since I’ve been acutely cognizant of this behavior, I am sensitive to how we treat each other, and how teams can benefit when we not only recognize our roles, but welcome ideas from ‘non-traditional’ participants. Yesterday, I held a post-mortem for a project we launched in December, and one of the positives we identified was that we all contributed throughout the life of the project. Everyone asked for more interdisciplinary and cross-functional check-ins throughout the schedule. The team wanted to help each other and support each other, even if that meant we might have to have more meetings and more work.

My professional resolution this year is taking it even further. I am inspired by an article I recently read in Boxesandarrows.com identifying the 5 major UX trends for the year. #3 is Agile UX and the Lean Startup movement. In theory, this makes total sense and would help create usable prototypes to test the efficacy and logic of additional features. In practice, especially with clients who have deadlines and want to see everything up front, it’s really, really scary. As a strategic producer, I do tons of work on the UX team, often in a planning and road-mapping role, but sometimes doing information architecture, wireframes, user flows. and the like. I’m always struck by the perfection required in developing documentation. If a UX designer misses out on a feature, it could have huge implications in the architecture phase, and there might be major backtracking and hours lost. Since I’m responsible for keeping hours under budget, it’s a constant source of stress.

So my resolution this year is simple. Try agile practices in UX. Maybe I won’t get there all the way. Maybe I will bump into huge firewalls by my managers or by my clients. Maybe my project hours will go over. But, the products will be better. I want to try to create prototypes more and wireframes less. That means wireframes will happen, but don’t need all the details before we make prototypes. That means that development team members and architects will have to weigh in more and try things earlier in the project, rather than being handed a huge stack of papers and told to make it. This is the way of the future.

Oh, my personal resolution last year was to close kitchen cabinet doors more often. It didn’t work out so well. So it’s back on the docket for 2013.

A few excellent articles on Agile Management and Lean UX that helped inspire my 2013 resolution.

About Dana

Dana Mandolesi is one cool chick who lives in San Francisco and knows lots about sociology and how people interact with technology. This has led her in all sorts of directions, especially helping companies harness the glory of the web through research, product development and strategy. She has a great love for technology and tries to integrate it into all sorts of things she does.
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