When it comes to designing a website, figuring out best practices is half the battle. You know user experience is important, because it relates to the overall experience the user has. However, agile design is equally important, because it focuses on the features of a website and how fast and intuitive things are.
One could argue that both design methods involve the overall user experience. Taking a closer look at each and their benefits can help you also see how they are similar and different.
What Is UX Design?
The term “UX” was originally coined by Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist at Apple. He wanted to take a deeper look at the way a user experiences a website, including the design, interface, graphics and page interaction.
UX design, with a focus on the user experience, takes into account a deeper understanding of the end user. What emotions, habits and preferences does a certain type of site visitor have? UX design also consists of usability testing to ensure everything works properly for the user. In a nutshell, the UX designer improves the user experience. One of the very first steps a UX designer will take is to create a user persona:
- This is a representation of the typical person who visits that specific website.
- The persona can be based on hard research, such as looking at site analytics and market research.
- The next step is to look at competitor sites and figure out what the persona does and doesn’t like.
- The UX designer might conduct some polls. For example, to figure out these elements and incorporate fixes into the overall design.
The rest of the process involves wireframing, A/B split testing and refining the overall product for the best user experience possible.
What Is Agile Design?
Software developers had used the concepts of agile for a while, but they hadn’t put a name to the process. In 2001, a group of developers got together and decided they needed a better way to get through the massive amount of work facing them. They create twelve key principles, named them and create a methodology of design.
The agile process is completed in a series of steps, called “sprints.” Each sprint has four stages:
In a nutshell, Agile involves completing work through incremental cycles. Instead of creating the whole concept and then developing and then testing, with Agile, you complete chunks at a time.
Another big part of the Agile design method is a daily stand-up meeting. This is where everyone on the team meets for a very quick update of where they are and what they need. This keeps everyone on the same page. Agile works particularly well for big projects where multiple people are working at the same time.
One big advantage of the Agile process is that the client is looped in during every phase of the process instead of only at the end. Clients see the work along the way and have full creative input into the overall design. This can help the client understand the process and feel more ownership of the end product as well.
Elements of Agile and UX That Work Together
You can see how you could implement both effective UX design with an Agile method so you work in a particular way, but doing so on an intuitive, user-friendly level. Agile integrates very well with a user-centered design approach. Plus, it also allows the input of a full team and creates a better relationship with the client.
One way to ensure the UX portion of the design is the main focus is to increase the overall time spent on user feedback for everyone on the Agile team. In order to really hone in on what the user feels about different design elements, it is vital to spend time each and every week with users. Interview them, poll them and have them test your product throughout development.
It is easy to assume that because one element of a site works, it is user friendly. This isn’t always the case. A site can be beautifully designed, but if the site visitor can’t find the button to buy your product, the beauty does little good.
The Pace of Agile vs. UX Design
Because Agile uses “sprints” to get the work completed, and because team members work on different components and then bring them together, the pace of an Agile-based project may be much faster than is comfortable for the traditional UX designer. It can be easy to overlook user components as you sprint through the different phases of the project.
The key is for the team to stay focused on delivering a valuable product for a reasonable cost. If the focus is only on adding more and more features and getting the work done as fast as possible, then the process may not be as successful as just focusing on UX design with more of a waterfall approach, where you go from point A to point B.
There are many advantages to using an Agile UX design process. The daily meetings can bring up issues as the team goes along. It also allows the opportunity for more testing than ever before as long as team members remain focused on the overall user value.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.