How UX works within an Agile framework

Your users are at the heart of your business. So it follows that they need to be at the heart of your digital strategy. 

Whether you’re a retailer striving to impact the bottom line through conversion – or a large enterprise looking to achieve a digitally-connected workforce – delivering effective, user-friendly experiences is key to meeting your business goals.

Here we look at how an Agile approach to UX can create experiences that compel users to act as you’d like them to – developing brand loyalty that strengthens the more time they invest in your product.

1: understanding UX principles

The first step to successful UX with Agile is to understand the four pillars that are key to connecting customers with your brand:
 

  • Trust. It’s imperative that a user has faith in your website. The look and feel has to be accurate and credible, it must be easy to use, and it must be endorsed where necessary. Combined, these factors provide a sense of security that puts the user at ease.
  • Transparency. A user needs to be fully informed in order to make the next step in their journey – whether that’s subscribing to your service, or making a purchase. Be clear with your labelling and logical in the order you provide information. Take care not to overwhelm the user or force them to take a leap of faith with little information to go on. Operating with integrity is key, so be transparent about any add-on costs upfront.
  • Barriers. A user journey should be free from barriers and distractions. If the user is forced to interact with content that doesn’t aid their journey, that content is better placed elsewhere. Help your customers focus on the task at hand, make decisions easy for them, and remove all functionality that throws up unnecessary questions.
  • Persuasion. Where possible, actions shouldn’t be forced out of the user. Instead the consumer should be encouraged to make a positive decision to progress in their journey. Ecommerce sites, for example, can help achieve this by creating a sense of urgency through time limits and displaying limited stock levels.

 2: discovery

Equipped with your four principles, the next stage in an Agile approach to UX is the discovery.

Your UX team should be ever-present in the discovery phase of your project to dig into your business, get fully aligned with your objectives, and understand the landscape of your industry.

One component of the discovery is sitting down and exploring the project from a creative angle. That means reviewing what you like and dislike about your existing digital property, analysing brand requirements, and getting to grips with the sprint process and outputs including UX workshops, interactive wireframes, and design files.

User journeys

User journeys are a key component of understanding your target market. They isolate an individual’s needs and help map out the relevant features and functionality needed to meet them. At Inviqa, for example, by creating many different journeys for our profiles we ensure the website will meet the requirements of the end user across our main target groups.

Task models

Task models breakdown the user journeys into bite-sized individual tasks. They describe how to perform activities to reach users' goals by designing the granular interface so the user can move through their agreed journeys clearly and cleanly. They are reviewed primarily at the discovery stage, then in more depth at the early sprints to help us create basic audits of the site, provide documentation so we can revisit our work post-launch and make any initial recommendations that we feel may benefit the end goals. 

3: kickstarting the Agile process

Sprint zero

A ‘sprint zero’ is useful for covering-off basic UX and design requirements so developers can hit the ground running at the beginning of sprint 1. This will be the key insight phase of the project where analysis of user journeys and customer input will provide accurate wireframes and designs for the developers to take into sprint 1. 

User profiles

Having understood the user journeys and task models as outlined in the discovery phase and let the findings steer the wireframes, we use profiling to understand the human drivers and genuine needs that motivate and affect user groups to complete their journeys and tasks. 

At Inviqa, we don’t just look at the age and sex of your user. We consider the situation they may be in, their network coverage, what could affect their attention, their stress levels, and so on. Studying all these variables – adding a face and a personality to your ‘users’ in this way – keeps us focused on delivering the best-possible experience. 

Wireframing

Wireframing is key in Agile UX as it helps us create the functionality via provide prototypes to enable accurate estimation for the developers ahead of the sprint planning. At Inviqa, we find Axure offers a project many advantages over other application such as Balsamiq:

  • Its accuracies in using grid and guide structures ensure a smoother handover to frontend and backend developers.
  • It creates a more precise template for UI and design.
  • The ‘adaptive views’ feature means we can carefully measure responsive formats when viewed on different size screens.
  • Support forums are widespread and varied to provide guidance and tips for better user experiences and prototypes.
  • It allows for rapid prototyping, and links to interactive wireframes can be updated, password protected, and viewed on any device.
  • The interactive wireframes can be shared online and contributors invited to comment.

 

Once the top level wireframes have been agreed, works starts on UI and design, with a view to handing this over to the developers for sprint 1. This includes screen designs and a style-guide, provided in PSD formats, for example, or via Sketch.

Early sprint activities

From here, the UX and design work remains one sprint ahead of the rest of the frontend developers’ workflow, getting designs and wireframes signed off early to ensure there is a continuous stream of work for them to work on in the next sprint. These are all communicated and managed via regular ceremonies such as daily stand-ups and retrospectives.

At Inviqa, we work actively with development teams, and closely with the client, to ensure all UX recommendations are carried out to a cost-effective and timely budget – and we’re always on-hand to provide alternative UX-based solutions if required.
 
We then begin work fine-tuning the future backlog with all stakeholders, taking any features they feel can be developed into something stronger into a UX workshop. From there, you can devise solutions to bring into the example workshop and planning for the next sprint. The purpose of the example workshop is to prepare user stories from the top of the product backlog – enough to cover the upcoming sprint – so we can plan and test accordingly.

Remember that this UX-driven process should be a constant engagement in every sprint. 

4: the project remainder

The workload will reduce after the first 3-4 sprints as the designs and wireframes get implemented. The main task then is to ensure the work being produced by the developers, and checked during QA, remains as user-friendly as was originally envisaged – from a functional and visual aspect.
 
Throughout the second half of the project, your consultancy should help find effective and budget-friendly solutions as new requirements emerge. Regular exploratory workshops introduce innovative approaches to proposed features. These can identify where money and time can be saved in the development phase and also stand your application apart from the competition by offering a better experience for its users.
 
Remember that a site going live is just the beginning. Our ‘Build, Measure, Learn’ process enables our clients to test their products in the marketplace by measuring actual results generated in a live environment against the original business goals. 

To make this possible we set up Google Analytics during the build to measure the right areas as we build them sprint by sprint. Using A/B testing tools such as Optimizely or Monetate can also be implemented to prompt us to acting on the right data in the right areas to steadily improve conversion month by month.

So that’s Agile UX in a nutshell. If you’ve got questions, we’d love to hear from you.
 
Interested in taking an Agile approach to UX? Want to learn more about how Inviqa can support your business goals? Get in touch!