I have been writing about agile interaction before in Agile Usability No 1 and after that in Agile Usability No 2 - AID. Also a post I did November 2006, Refactoring the agile manifesto, tries to induce some interaction design thinking in the agile manifesto.
Still there are a number of things to do in this area. For some of us agile development is old news, but actually it has just begun and interaction designers should take this opportunity to get more involved in the process. As I attended from business to buttons earlier on I was alarmed by the lack of understanding in agile software development. I really think there are actions that need to be taken now.
More and more I have found that interaction design needs to be split into two parts; backlog creation and software interaction design. And it seems that Alan cooper backs my view on this even if I don’t agree with all he says.
The interaction designers really are the ones that can translate user needs to user stories. They have the ability to explain end boil down real user needs and goals to user stories that developers can understand. The interaction designers have the tools to create vivid scenarios. And from them extract all the user stories needed to create a compelling and rich user experience.
Software interaction design
This part is done in tight co-operation with the developers. Churn out sketches and prototypes together with them, make sure they get the designs and purpose and at the same time learn about the boundaries of system. What is possible to create and what shortcuts can I use. No more documents or Photoshop mockups that just get’s handed over to the developers. The result is quick feedback with with bits and pieces of working code and interaction that can be used in user testing.
Wireframe tools may be useful for early testing of concepts and ideas but I actually think that Microsoft is right on track with their, still rough, set of tools. In the Expression suite they try to make a solid split of design and development, enabling parallel cooperative designer/developer work.
Get rid of big up front design
Still there are interaction designers out there that think they can come up with a bunch of user studies, wireframes and flash prototypes and just hand them over. I’d say they have to adapt or start looking for a new career. We really have to work together on this.
The interaction designer in a scrum team
Interaction designers are full grown team members. Obey the rules of the scrum team and get the flexibility and trust as a team member. Always strive to improve and streamline the process at every sprint retrospective. It’s time for the interaction design community to create their set of tools for the agile process. It may be tweaked versions of current research tool box or something completely new. But this is our chance to get as involved and the users need us to be.
// Håkan Reis