I was intrigued by this recent post by Elisabeth Hubert, “Agile is Wrong for UX”. I was curious what her thoughts were on how to best fit the user experience role into an Agile project, as I haven’t seen anyone write much about this. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm waned when I came to this:
Most of the time, UX is looking for ways to ensure we are involved [in Agile], and are thus constantly compromising our processes and beliefs in order to stay relevant. In the process, we lose more and more of the value that we bring and make ourselves more and more irrelevant. We decide that research doesn’t need to be as extensive as we think […] and so we cut down on it. We decide that design thinking can be sped up and so we skip through that. Basically we are doing everything to ensure we don’t get kicked off the playground and sent home.
I started to wonder: What processes? What beliefs? What compromises are you making? Her examples aren’t specific and so it comes off as a little petulant instead of constructive. Does it take a long time to perform a full research cycle on user behaviors? Perhaps it does, and perhaps it will, but you should still be able to report back and show something at the end of each iteration. Everyone is making sacrifices with Agile, everyone is giving something up, but its success comes from the timeboxing. Everyone (customers, developers, managers, testers… everyone) acknowledges the implicit limiting factors of time, and agrees to turn their attentions to focus on whatever is most valuable.
I do not believe that Agile is inherently incompatible with UX. Agile can only work when everyone is willing to do the work, and “the work” means creating stories and working from them, it means timeboxed iterations, it means creating the most value even if it means cutting features. I won’t pretend to be an expert on UX, but given what I do know of it, I don’t know of anything that would box it out of Agile. But I’d love to hear more from the other side of this.