Jeff PattonTo my regret, I only got to see a single session from Jeff Patton - Agile UX Design Emergent Practices, a documentation of patterns he's observed multiple design teams end up using to fit into an agile environment.

I hope Jeff gets slides online soon - it was a fantastic presentation but I was in a post-workshop slump and my notes are less than complete or useful:

  • UX practitioners find it hard to adapt to an agile environment. They typically go through the five stages of grief as they adjust;
  • Jeff was one of the first people he could find to go through this, "the tallest of the pygmies" as he modestly puts it - until he found Craig Villamor of Salesforce;
  • Why is it so hard? Jeff theorises it's about homonyms - words which designers and developers use, with each applying different meanings;
  • For instance, to a developer, design is "how"; to a designer, it's "what"; for a developer an iteration is a timebox, to a designer it's a representation of the product; and so forth;
  • Patterns have emerged! For instance...
  • Design work getting chunked effectively: good designers working in agile teams learn to do this well;
  • UX as part of the Product Owner or customer team;
  • Product Owner as a team blending many skills, not an individual;
  • Internal product releases to break up the sometimes long periods between public releases;
  • Learning how to do "just enough" work up front, in a "sprint zero" which can take place "whilst the developers are getting CruiseControl working" - much knowing laughter from the room at that one;
  • UX owning, or co-owning, the product backlog;
  • Use of story maps;
  • Owning a time machine, in order to travel forwards and backwards during the project; in each sprint evaluating work from the previous sprint, supporting the developers on the current one, and doing research for the next;
  • Cultivating a pool of users who can be available for user testing at short notice, and using these users to do post-testing of existing software and pre-testing of prototypes;
  • RITE testing (James Box wrote a nice intro to this a while back);
  • Letting a prototype and conversation be the specification, instead of relying on documentation;
  • Having "designer/developers" who get their hands dirty with code;

Jeff ended with a lovely assertion: that whilst adapting to agile was difficult, he thinks that using agile leads to better-designed products than traditional methodologies. /me claps until my hands fall off.