Agile development methodology is a framework that embraces an iterative approach to product design through continual planning, improvement, learning, and team collaboration.
In an agile environment, iterations are often brought back to the drawing board repeatedly after deployment, when data begins to drip in about the effectiveness (or not) of the latest changes.
Generally speaking, an agile team tends to be primarily concerned with the following:
- Individual and team interactions more than processes and tools
- Working software more than complete documentation
- Customer collaboration more than contract negotiation
- Responding to change more than following a plan
The Benefits of Agile Methodology
Agile methodology is a route that gives product teams the flexibility to pivot and change direction however needed to more closely align with user and business needs. The digital world is ever-changing and evolving. Likewise, the needs and expectations that your users had six months ago might be drastically different than the challenges they face today.
All agile software development processes begin with defining the users and setting a product vision statement that depicts the following:
- Who the customer is
- The values being addressed
- A strategy for addressing those values
To deliver on the vision, the product owner takes the vision and collaborates with multidisciplinary software development teams that will complete end-to-end functioning applications.
Challenges of Agile Methodology
At its core, an agile framework has the potential to be incredibly user-focused … but that’s not always the case.
Because the rapid, iterative cycles do not leave time for a more traditional UX design process that front-loads research and testing, an agile team can quickly disintegrate into making decisions based on their own preferences or bandwidth. Once the focus falls away from the end user, the product team starts, essentially, having to pedal uphill to arrive at effective design solutions.
How to Incorporate UX into an Agile Team
In order to reap the benefits of UX research and design without losing the flexibility of agile methodologies, many teams have begun to take an approach known as lean UX .
With lean UX, the designer applies their typical research-design-testing workflow to a single feature or component, rather than the product as a whole. By breaking the focus down into bite-sized pieces, you are able to fully test and analyze the data needed to produce an effective solution within the shortened time frame of an agile design sprint.
Using agile methodology, you’ll be constantly and continuously developing and testing throughout the life cycle of your software development project. Testing and development activities are simultaneous.
How to Use Agile Methodology in Projects
When working on a UX project, agile methodologies can help you and your team finish more quickly, improve your workflows, and modify the project as required. In today’s high-paced work environment, changes to the scope or goals of a project are common, and agile project management was created to help teams adapt.
When you learn how to use the agile methodology in projects, it will help you divide large projects into smaller, easy-to-complete pieces and update your plan as the project progresses. It also emphasizes the values of creating a working product quickly, involving high-quality team members (above tools and processes), and collaborating with users.
Teams use the agile methodology by:
- Reviewing User Stories:Before the work begins, the team reads through and discusses the user stories to stay focused on the client’s goals and estimate how much time and energy the project will take.
- Conducting Design Sprints:These are short periods in which the team works on the current piece of the overall project they have planned. At the end of each sprint, they evaluate the project and plan the next sprint based on their progress.
- Holding Scrum Meetings:The team holds a short stand up meeting every day to check on their progress.
- Using a Progress Board:The team has a visual tool that shows them their progress at a glance.
- Managing Their Backlog: Teams keep track of the user stories that they have received. At sprint planning sessions, they decide what tasks from the backlog they can add to the next sprint.
If you want to transition to using the agile project methodology, you’ll need to adopt agile principles in your team. These include elevating fast delivery of projects to your highest priority, daily collaboration, improving the environment to keep team members motivated, simplifying your work, and frequently reflecting on how to improve your work.