For the past year or more, I've been wondering if I need to continue selling Agile UX to teams, treating it like something people should convert to, like a religion. At times, I would feel like a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness knocking door to door, trying to get each household (team) to see that there is a different way to live, or in this case, work. Or I would discuss the various ways to accomplish Agile UX, which is basically integrating UX into the iterations. And there's isn't one-size, fits all. It depends. Some organizations want more customer feedback, some need more visualizations and a vision first, some need help on the fly.
Lately, I'm not discussing the benefits of switching to Agile and integrating UX. Everyone understands the value of that.
I'm having conversations about how to make their existing experiences better.
My latest experiences get me to wonder if we need to keep discussing Agile UX or even Lean UX? Aren't we all pretty much doing it? It is now the premier way to create software and pretty mainstream. Waterfall has died, or is close to it, and we're making better products because of that.
I see 2 reasons why I've stopped promoting Agile UX so strongly. And then I have an answer to the big question: what's next?
1. Design is no longer the leading effort in a project. Designers are now facilitators and influencers.
Design heroes are dead. Designers no longer dictate the final solution. Design is now a collaborative effort from the start.
I remember being at conferences about 10 years ago, where experts discussed how design is really collaborative. It's not art; it's not a great creation. It's meant to be used to make an object or interaction helpful, attractive, informative. The user who will be using the designed object needs to be included in the process, as do the people who are creating and developing it. It's about a team.
The group defines what a product should do and how it should work.
The designer facilitates the discussion, recommends best practices, suggests a process, and provides design.
I think we have found that we can do without grand design plans before we start a software project. And it's probably better that way. Why waste time creating elaborate, well-designed features that will never see the light of day? Too many of us have created features that sit in a dusty binder rather than in a matrix of code, ready to be used and make someone's life easier. We're all better off building something that will be used, and the best way to do that is to design throughout the development process.
Sure, a project needs a vision to aspire to achieve, but the details for how that design should be implemented should be addressed during the process.
I have been doing this for years and it works like a charm.
Good design is about influence and collaboration. A great designer is skilled at learning what users need, where their problems lie, understand the context, and find solutions for that problem. Great designers have a lot of empathy for people and how they use and interact with machines. They also spend time thinking about what it means to have a better life, a life where technology is integrated into experiences seamlessly, and improve how the world works.
Great designers have a strong sense of what it means to live an easier life. Most actually do live a pretty swank life because that's what they think about and what they do.
If anything, I think we need to talk more about the problems customers are having and create strategies to address them. We almost need to balance the conversations the industry regularly has about tools, methodologies and process. They don't effectively solve a problem of users not using products on their own. A strategy does. We should talk more about goals, strategies and approaches. Case studies. Customer research results. How to build upon functional experiences to meaningful experiences and memorable experiences.
2. Agile is mainstream
Agile is everywhere. I don't think everyone knows how to do it properly, but most people know what it is and generally how it works. I think it's backwards for a company to use waterfall methodologies. The Agile Manifesto got it right about the best way to work - and not just to create great software, but to create anything. Prioritization is important. We don't need to put in over 40 hours each week at work - unless it's a total emergency. Our teams need to be aligned to work on the right things that will generate the most revenue. And we need to scope work properly.
It's hard for companies to completely shift to Agile because that means they need to address transparency issues. Transparency is hard. It means that everyone sees what you are doing and how you do it. There are no secrets. If you make a bad or good decision, everyone sees it. However, we aren't trained to be transparent in life. We tend to like our little secrets. And we're not used to accountability.
Today in business, transparency is a requirement. You need it in order to prioritize well and be on target with a goal to do the right things. It's less about hidden agendas and personal gain. With the growth of team-driven environments, flat organizations, and more direct yet diplomatic communication, we need to work in a different way.
We don't need to keep thinking how do we integrate UX into Agile. We need to do it - and refine how to do it better.
The next movement: Memorable Experiences
We often talk about MVP product and what that means. I think MVP has gotten a bad reputation. MVP is minimum viable product. That means the experience should be pretty basic; it doesn't mean the experience is a disaster. But it does mean that it is memorable.
Memorable experiences take their cue from the peak-end rule. People remember experiences that have a lot of emotional charge and the end result. For an MVP product, your goal is probably to not be memorable in a bad way, meaning it doesn't suck. It's easy to use, there are no bumps. If anything, that process alone makes your product memorable. The user succeeded in the task he wanted to complete, which is a positive memory. That's a great goal for a first release product!
Later on, you need to create experiences that engage with customers on an emotional level. What do they really want to be able to do? It's probably functionality they want. Functionality that will make their lives better in some way, make their lives easier. They remember that.
Users also remember their interactions with you and your site. They remember what happened when they had questions. They remember how you resolved their issues. They remember what you knew about them and their preferences. They remember that doing business with you was meaningful to them.
Customers come back because they remember to contact you. There are many options out there to choose, but there was something about your company that made this customer or prospect want to come back.
Now let's focus on making your experiences memorable so customers will choose you again and again.