Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Real World Agile User Experience Design - Jeff Patton (Part I)

I listened to Jeff Patton at Code Freeze 2010. He comes more from the user experience side than (Alan) Cooper, and he presented on the integration of design into day-to-day work. His core idea is that Agile, in eliminating the old BDUF (Big Design Up Front - I like BUFD, it sounds more like "buffed", implying some sort of dim, Jersey Shore, over-muscled, guy, which I can correlate to the slowness and excess of process often associated with Waterfall. By the way, you can get your own Jersey Shore nickname here. Mine is "Tan Jovi") process, has fundamentally altered how design is accomplished. Newer User Experience and Interaction experts are increasingly relying on lighter, more collaborative, practices that make design part of a holistic project approach.

Patton says that this history can be broken down into four parts. 1.) How User Experience (UX) was. 2.) How Agile wrecked everything. 3.) How User Experience design is in an Agile context. And 4.) What's next.

How User Experience/Interaction Design was...
Design followed an isolated phase model. That is, design was a separate precursor to other work, done by a designer or Business Analyst or business representative up front. It was characterized by fewer people, less collaboration, and more specialization. The emphasis was on information gathering, documentation, completeness, defensibility, and culpability. We all know the model or some variation on the model. Business needs >> user needs >> model the users >> high level design >> detail design >> specification >> develop software >> test (test, test, test...test, test, test) >> release >> maintenance.

The isolation of phases was obvious in the language gap (or syntactical overlap - choose your poison) between design and development and, later, between legacy design words and Agile vocabulary. Consider the difference between old school design and Agile when it comes to phrases and words like design, iteration (Agile builds it, Design sketches it), customer (Agile focuses on user story providers, Design focuses on the person who buys the product), user story (Agile focuses on what someone wants built, and Design focuses on a profile of a user), test-driven, and a "small bit of software" (Agile means "built in a few days". Design/UX means "something that seems small as a piece of user functionality. There's a enormous gap when you give that some study). The result when Agile, with its holistic, iterative, design/development/testing entered the scene, was to provoke in UX designers what Craig Villamor referred to as the five phases: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

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