Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Agile is twenty cement mixers pouring feverishly while somebody looks in the Yellow Pages under "architect." (Roger Belveal)

I have incredibly mixed feelings about Agile

On the one hand, I know people are making it work with usability. I have even done something like that myself.

On the other hand, though, I know it was developed without usability in mind. Now, you can make it work with usability, but you really do have to make a separate, concerted effort.  It is not baked in.

Out-of-the-box Agile does not guarantee usability. This worries me, as I am often struck by the zealotry of a lot of Agile advocates.  In fact, there seems to be a certain fundamentalism within Agile that implies that you have to do Agile only in its purest form.

So, what does Agile have instead? Well, there are the user stories. And they are a great way to turn requirements into something that ties in real users trying to do real tasks with real goals in mind. So, that does loop the user in when it comes to creation and design at least.

But how about the evaluation part? Yes, Agile does a great job making a tweak here, a tweak there, then rushing it out to market to see if it “moves the needle” with actual users. A/B testing is an even more sophisticated version of that.

Note, though, that this is totally correlational. You know that something worked better, but you have no idea why. Design, then, becomes a simple shot in the dark. Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. I was hoping we had come a little further than that in all these years. Sigh …

Now, there’s plenty out there about how to make usability work within Agile, and it does make a lot of sense (and, like I said before, I’ve done it myself). I do really worry, though, about the people who aren’t super-sophisticated about UX who hear about Agile, can’t wait to jump on the bandwagon, and want to “do it right.” Unfortunately, that last bit often means not even thinking about something that took years to finally become adopted in IT and which has proven its value many times over. For me, it almost feels like starting from scratch in a way. Maybe I’m na├»ve, but I honestly thought I’d never have to make those arguments again.


In addition to being a kick-ass UX professional,
Roger Belveal is also a pretty talented artist
(these are his iPhones made out of concrete and steel)

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