UIEtips: Essential UX Layers for Agile and Lean Design Teams

Jared Spool

May 11th, 2011

The migration to agile and lean development methods has thrown a wrench into the world of user experience professionals. Now in unfamiliar ground, these professionals want to know what new techniques and tricks help integrate UX into the development process.

As we’ve been studying what works and what doesn’t work, we’ve realized that the successful teams aren’t doing anything new or novel. Their success is solidly based on a fundamental that many of the struggling teams have forgotten: good design decisions come from informed members of the team.

The big difference that’s arisen in this new agile world is how integrated the team is. No longer is UX design owned by the UX designers: everyone on the team now has design responsibilities. That means that everyone needs to be informed about what the design is trying to do.

When we talked to the teams from the successful organizations, we found a common theme: they used a framework to make sure their teammates have all the information they need. We’ve codified this framework as UX Layers, which span from the big picture of a long-term vision all the way down to the details of individual user stories for developing the next sprint.

In today’s UIEtips, we explore the UX Layers, looking at how they each fit together. Whether you’re currently doing Agile development, planning to move there, or still working in a waterfall world, I think you’ll find this framework will help ensure you’ve got all the information you need to create great designs.

Read the article, Essential UX Layers for Agile and Lean Design Teams.

Want to know more about designing for UX in an agile world? Then you don’t want to miss Julie Zhuo and Aviva Rosenstein’s talks about the amazing techniques that Facebook and Salesforce.com’s teams are using. They are both part of the upcoming UIE Web App Masters Tour. See their sessions and the entire awesome program at UIEtour.com

2 Responses to “UIEtips: Essential UX Layers for Agile and Lean Design Teams”

  1. Jeff Gothelf Says:

    Thanks for taking on this topic Jared. It’s one that’s near and dear to me as I’ve helped the UX team at TheLadders navigate their transition into the world of Agile. While we have a lot of learning to share (feel free to reach out to discuss) and have been doing so both on our own blog and in other places, there’s one key factor that is crucial to the success of highly-productive Agile teams: collaboration.

    Teams need to break down the walls that job titles and explicit roles have built around us and start solving problems through greater team-wide understanding of the various layers your article mentions. This includes UX practitioners. Let developers into your world. Help them see how design thinking and techniques solve difficult business problems. Then work together to reach successful outcomes. Collaboration, and the mindset that comes with successful use of it, is the true secret sauce of Agile and UX harmony.


  2. Tom Says:

    This puzzles me:

    “But the void left by eliminating Big Design Up Front is that it’s harder for the team members to get the big picture they need. The result is a deconstructed design process where everything is broken down into such little pieces, which, when reassembled into the final experience, becomes frustrated by the users.”

    Did you mean frustrating to the users?

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