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Last updated on 1/13/20

Stay agile and schedule regular check-ins

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As we've already discovered in this course, there are numerous approaches to project management. A common one you may encounter in UX is Agile. In this chapter our goal is to give a general overview of Agile and to examine commonly used Agile methods.

Stand up!

Stand-ups are commonly used by Agile teams to serve as daily or weekly check-ins. In order to keep these meetings moving fast, everyone literally stands up and gives a quick update on what they are working on. All team members quickly review:

  • What they worked on yesterday.

  • What they plan on doing today.

  • Any roadblocks or challenges they foresee.

This ensures that nothing slips through the cracks, and team members can help each other out if anyone is stuck. It should take less than a minute per person, and then everyone heads back to work. Some offices may conduct these over Slack some days to save time . You can even set auto-alerts to remind everyone to respond by a certain time!

Stand-ups are just one approach to staying in touch and up-to-date with team members. The primary benefit is they’re quick, so you can focus more on work rather than wasting time in meetings. Other meetings you may encounter are planning meetings (where you map out what is ahead and figure out the timeline), or product demos (where you tell a story, give a bit of context, and walk through a prototype or working version to show a client or product owner what has been built so far). The goal of all of these check-ins is to minimize surprises and keep open communication along the way.

A bit of background on Agile project management

Agile is a system of project management that is popular with tech and development teams, and it is very common in the start-up scene of today. The Agile Manifesto, which was originally written for software development, includes things like individuals and interactions over process and tools, and customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development    We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:  Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over co
Tenets of Agile project management

Often visualized as an infinity sign, Agile is viewed as:

  • iterative, incremental, and evolutionary

  • focused on continuous improvement (start with a basic foundation and improve with each cycle)

  • adaptive and flexible to needs

Agile project management imagined as an infinity sign.
Agile project management visualized

Agile was envisioned to keep teams moving fast amidst ongoing technological change. While Agile was not developed with designers in mind, it is a process many UX designers will encounter in professional environments. It has been adapted in many ways and does not exhibit itself in the same ways at every company or organization.

There are some challenges to using Agile in UX which are addressed in the Nielsen Norman Group videos below:

Does Agile Destroy UX? from the Nielsen Norman Group. [2:24 min]

Agile UX Traits from the Nielsen Norman Group [3:29 min]

There are a few common roles you may encounter in Agile:

  • Scrum Master: acts as a filter for all information and requests that come into a project or team. They are responsible for determining and assigning priorities. They have to be okay with saying "no" to some requests. 

  • Product Owner: ultimately responsible for the end product.

  • Engineer: responsible for coding and developing the product.

  • Designer: responsible for some aspects of the UX and/or UI of the product.

In order to achieve results, there needs to be regular, ongoing communication between these roles. The key thing to remember is that the most successful teams work together.

Waterfall process

Before there was Agile, waterfall was the common approach to UX projects, where one completed phase flows into the next with no backward movement. Some older, larger corporations still may use this approach. Many UX designers find it limiting as it is less iterative, making it more difficult to make changes and revisions.

5 steps of waterfall: requirement analysis, design, implementation, testing, maintenance
Waterfall development process

The best way to learn is by doing! Most of these processes can vary depending on the work environment. Knowing these processes exist and are designed to help teams work together is a solid start. You'll pick them up quickly on the job.

Let's recap!

  • Agile is a popular system for project management which was designed to be flexible and move fast.

  • Agile was imagined with developers in mind — not designers — therefore, on a design team, you may encounter a few challenges.

  • In the waterfall methodology, each step flows into the next without revisiting past steps.

  • Stand-ups are a great way to keep teams on track. Most development and design teams hold daily stand-ups to cover what they worked on yesterday, what they plan on doing today, and any possible roadblocks they foresee.

  • The most successful teams work together and help each other out.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement