What is Agile UX?
If you’re looking to break into UX or just starting your career in the field, ‘Agile UX’ is a term you’ve probably heard. While it gets used a fair amount, you can be forgiven for needing clarification on what Agile UX is: The information is complex and often conflicting. If you’re feeling confused, you’ve come to the right place. We at Dezy It offer agile UX that better your CX leading to better conversion and retention rates.
In this article, we’ll demystify Agile UX for you.
First, we’ll walk through exactly what Agile UX is, with a quick look at the historical context in which it developed and its core principles.
After that, we’ll explore what an Agile UX team might look like in practice before seeing how it compares to Lean UX—another UX working method worth familiarizing yourself with. Finally, we’ll wrap up with some key takeaways.
Agile UX is a working method that brings together Agile software development and UX practice.
In practical terms, this means placing at least one UX specialist in Agile software teams and creating a culture that recognizes and understands the value of the UX process.
It also means allocating budgetary and hourly resources to ensure that the UX process is fully integrated into the development cycle.
But before we dive deeper into the core principles of Agile UX, it’s necessary to briefly touch on what Agile software development itself is.
What is Agile software development?
In our UX Design Glossary, we use this definition:
“Agile is an incremental approach to software development. Instead of building the entire product at once, Agile breaks it down into smaller bits of user functionality and assigns them to two-week cycles we call iterations.
These iterations are generally called Sprints, and they run continuously. Often, Sprints follow a Design-Build-Test-Review process:
Fast-forward 21 years and most software development teams globally use Agile. However, their differing interpretations of Agile’s theoretical side mean extremely diverse outcomes.
And, because Agile’s origins are in engineering, UX was not considered when it was created. But after adopted Agilethe software industry adopted Agilethe software industry adopted Agile, industry leaders gradually began to see the necessity of integrating UX into their Agile software development.
Okay, so let’s take a look at the principles on which this marriage of UX and Agile software development is built. The same arrangement is used by Dezy It.
The core principles of Agile UX
The value principles are:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools; Agile emphasizes the importance of individuals and interactions over processes and tools, as only the former can respond to business needs to drive the development process in the flexible way Agile demands.
Working software over comprehensive documentation. Although it can be both necessary and a tremendous value add, comprehensive documentation is time-consuming and costly to create and maintain. It can often become a bottleneck to working software in rapid cycles.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. One should include this principle to ensure that the customer's voice is present throughout a dynamic development cycle.
What do Agile UX teams look like?
At this stage, you might wonder what UX brings to Agile and vice versa. To apply all the Agile principles to UX, what is the difference between the two? And what do Agile UX teams look like in comparison to standard agile teams?
Having UX specialists on the team who represent and advocate for UX principles can lead to very different practices and outcomes.
Let’s have a quick look at five ways in which an Agile UX team could differ from a standard Agile team:
UX work is carried out ahead of development sprints: In NN/g’s The State of UX Agile Development, Agile UX teams reported carrying out UX work before development sprints. Doing this allows research and design work to be completed at least one sprint ahead of implementation work, giving UX designers crucial time to think through, challenge, test, and validate their assumptions.
Research and design-thinking techniques are applied to inform and guide product design: This means Agile UX teams will harness both generative and evaluative UX research and the five phases of the design thinking process (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test) to make sure that the team builds software that solves a real customer problem.
Now that we’ve run through the core principles of Agile and Agile UX and looked at how an Agile UX team may differ from an Agile team, let’s look at the common ground and differences between Agile UX and Lean UX.
Agile UX vs. Lean UX
Before we compare Agile UX and Lean UX, let’s quickly talk about what Lean UX is.
Lean UX was coined by Janice Fraser, a UX industry pioneer and founding partner of the acclaimed design firm, Adaptive Path.
As a Lean startup coach, her definition of Lean is simple and straightforward: “Lean UX is UX practice adapted for Lean Startups, and Agile UX is UX practice adapted for teams working with Agile.”
To go into a little more detail, it’s worth revisiting our definition in What Is Lean UX? A Complete Beginner’s Guide:
“Lean UX is a collaborative, user-centric design approach that minimizes wasted time, money, and resources during the design cycle. The Lean UX approach asserts that a product’s initial prototype will always be wrong and need improvement, so it encourages the creation of a minimal viable product — a product with the bare essentials needed to conduct user testing.
“This approach is all about finding solutions to the problems and then improving those solutions based on user feedback.” We use such an approach at Dezy It.
Let’s take a minute to look at where they have common ground.
How are Agile UX and Lean UX similar?
Agile UX and Lean UX operate based on a number of the same principles. Both approaches are:
User-centric: As you would expect with the UX focus, both Agile UX and Lean UX look to include the voice of the customer in harnessing rapid development cycles to create a product that meets customers’ needs.
Collaborative: With a focus on highly collaborative teams that aim to build quality products, both encourage early sharing of insights and lessons through regular meetings and team rituals.
Evidence-based: The shared emphasis on research, testing, and challenging/validating assumptions is where UXR and fast feedback feature in both approaches.
As you can see, Agile UX and Lean UX are driven by some of the same overarching principles. But, while there is plenty of overlap between the approaches, they are also distinct.
Let’s take a look at the critical differences between them.
How are Agile UX and Lean UX different?
As touched on in the definition we looked at earlier, Lean UX works on a core assumption that the initial prototype—the first thing the team designs—will be wrong.
Based on this assumption, investing a lot of money, planning, and design and development hours doesn't make sense in the initial prototype.
So, as its name suggests, a lot of the Lean UX approach is about eliminating or at least reducing, waste. In simple words, just like the ones we follow at Dezy It.
This core assumption leads to several differences between Lean UX and Agile UX. But it’s fair to say most of these are differences in emphasis rather than fundamental contradictions or disagreements.
Now it’s time to wrap things up with some key takeaways.
Here are four takeaways on the principles of Agile UX, what UX brings to Agile, and its similarities and differences with Lean UX:
Agile UX is based on four values: Prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools, prioritizing working software over comprehensive documentation, prioritizing customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.
Bringing UX into the Agile approach leads to UX work being carried out ahead of sprints, research and design-thinking techniques informing and guiding product design, proactive outreach to end users, collaboration, and the creation of processes to keep the focus on user-centered design.
Agile UX and Lean UX share a lot of characteristics: Both are user-centric, collaborative, evidence-based, and iterative and bring a designer’s toolkit to the software development process.
If you are looking for an agile team to design your UX. You can now stop searching.
We at Dezy It foster strong and systematic teams for you so you can be provided with the most spectacular UX design.
Click here and get in touch with us today.