Advertise here with BSAChances are, you’ve heard about the myriad ways in which the agile development method is changing the face of software development. If you’ve worked in the design world, you may even have given agile a ...
Advertise here with BSAChances are, you’ve heard about the myriad ways in which the agile development method is changing the face of software development. If you’ve worked in the design world, you may even have given agile a try yourself, or at least found yourself the victim of an overeager manager who wanted to “shake things up” and “think outside the Waterfall box.”
The agile method is, indeed, an effective and schema-breaking approach, one that’s far more relevant in today’s cash-strapped, fast-paced work environment than more traditional, slow-moving, risk averse, top down production strategies, which often fall behind the market. But, while related, software development isn’t web design, and the agile method isn’t necessarily a solid template that should be applied to the design process. Instead, it’s better to take the wider agile philosophy to heart and apply the method’s core principles strategically.
Let’s take a look at just what agile is, why it might be good for designers, and how to adapt it accordingly.
What is Agile?
Agile is a reactive rather than predictive development method. The manifesto states four main values:
1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: While the agile method does employ various techniques, e.g. scrums, processes and tools are a means for creating more frequent interaction between team members and customers, not an end in themselves.
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation: While agile does require some planning, there is more of a “dive in and get it done” mentality in order to ship a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This reduces the amount of documentation from planning to post-ship analysis.
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: With agile, the goal is to get things done quickly. For that, customers need to be on board and in frequent communication with the development team, not negotiating terms.
4. Responding to change over following a plan: There are few “straight paths” in agile. Work occurs in a series of iterations so that the team, clients, and beta users can test various elements of the MVP as it’s developed, and change course if necessary.
Why Agile is Good for Designers
While at first it may feel weird and even upsetting for designers to nix the upfront, static PSD, the agile method can really big a boon for the creative process. On the simplest level, it can get designers out of that pixel-level perfectionism that can delay delivery of projects for months, bring projects in over budget, and even impede the original brainstorming process.
The agile method also allows designers to gain a continuous look at just how users interact with designs. This may lead to more low-level frustrations when, say, a whole day’s work needs to be re-envisioned, but it also prevents even bigger redesigns down the line when a client doesn’t like a finished product that may have taken months to develop. In the right situations, where communication is productive, agile can even lead to more creativity as both the designer and the client discover the true heart of the project as they go.
Lastly, agile design will help designer work seamlessly with developers also using the method, promoting collaboration rather than silo-induced isolation.
Let’s take a look at a few agile techniques and see how they apply to the design world.
Technique 1: Frequent Iterations
While still essential, the information gathering, site mapping, wireframing phase in agile design should be seriously reduced, as should, really, every other phase of the design process. Instead, the design team should set goals for an MVP right up front, and then work toward achieving that MVP via a series of 1 to 2 week iterations. This means breaking tasks up into a series of smaller deliverables and tasks, placed into the categories of backlog, in-process, in review, and in pr