Agile Development and UX Design are both approaches that can be enlisted when developing/designing a software program, a new user interface, or various other technological systems. Both are considered their own unique disciplines but they can be combined to yield great results. In unison, both approaches are an excellent basis for user interface design or software development in general. Thus, it is important to try and find a happy medium between the two. In this article I will define the two approaches and then try to show how to create a happy development medium between the two.
What is Agile Development?
Agile development is a methodology used in software design that is based on iterative and incremental development. It is a process that promotes teamwork, development, and adaptability throughout the life-cycle of the project. Agile development is based on The Manifesto for Agile Software Development that was introduced by a team of software developers in 2001, in an effort to define the approach now known as agile software development. This manifesto included the following twelve principles:
Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development.
Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
Working software is the principal measure of progress
Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
Close, daily cooperation between businesspeople and developers
Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
Simplicity (one of the credos of good user interface design, too)
Regular adaptation to changing circumstances.
Agile development is a method that values collaboration and evolution. It is a system that capitalizes on the benefits of change, communication, and dedication within the design team during the development phase of a product.
What is UX Design?
UX design is the creation of systems that are affected by the needs, wants, and experiences of the user. In the realm of computers UX design typically refers to user interfaces such as those found in web and mobile apps, websites, or software programs that are shaped by the needs, wants, and experiences of the user. It is a highly multi-faceted methodology that incorporates various disciplines spanning the human and computer interaction domain: psychology, anthropology, computer science, sociology, graphic design, and industrial design just to name a few. The purpose of understanding the user in UX design is to learn how to create systems and products that enable users to have positive experiences while using them.
How do the methods differ from each other?
One of the main differences between agile development and UX design is the fact that agile development does not explicitly concerns itself with users and user interactions, or usability. Agile development is more likely to view those that employ their products as customers rather than users. To this end, it is more focused on functionality and design team cooperation while UX design is more focused on usability and user satisfaction, insofar as user satisfaction is based on human satisfaction psychologically and technologically.
A second difference between the two methodologies has to do with time. Agile product development consists of employing rapid, iterative development during short, incremental development cycles. UX design, on the other hand, often has a long and detailed process before design even begins, often filled with research and fieldwork concerning users and their trends related to a given user interface.
Finding a happy development medium
Despite the differences between the methods, it turns out to be useful to marry the principles together. One was to do this is via the rapid prototyping method. Rapid UI prototyping,for example, uses short iterative cycles that are similar to release cycles found in agile development, in order to design user interfaces. Similarly, rapid UI prototyping is an ideal method in user experience design where UI prototypes can help visualize user interface design alternatives and test them with end users before the coding starts. This combination of agile development and UX design usually means that user research and prototyping come in the early phases of the development process, followed by iterative implementation cycles. An even closer link can be established when implementation and frequent usability testing with new prototype versions are alternated in each release cycle. This means that user interface designers, UX professionals and developers work in parallel, with the UX team testing the software starting with UI prototypes (e.g. wireframes) that evolve into functional prototypes and high-fidelity prototypes, and the development team implementing according to recommendations and improvements derived from the usability tests. This way you can combine the best from both worlds and achieve outstanding results.
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