In early 2001, during a weekend in Wasatch Mountains in Utah, 17 people came together to discuss their frustration about the current state of software development. As a result, they created the Agile Manifesto that has changed the paradigm of development forever.
Arounda team has been applying the Agile methodology in various design projects. The same principles work well in UI/UX for the Web 3 marketplace, SaaS recruiting platform, or fintech applications. So, in this article, we describe what is Agile in design.
Agile originates from software development. However, since 2020, it has migrated to different types of organizations, teams, and crafts. This methodology has also influenced the design field, and companies worldwide use Agile principles in developing new products.
The traditional product development flow is organized linearly, and the order of its phases is predetermined. The Agile approach accommodates changing requirements, even late in development.
The Agile methodology was introduced as an alternative approach for making better software at a lower cost. It is based on four basic principles listed in the Agile manifesto:
Individuals and interactions above processes and tools
Good software above detailed documentation
Collaborating with customers above negotiating contracts
Adapting to change above following rigid plans
Let's investigate how these ideas apply to product design.
The Agile approach encourages design teams to embrace the “unknown” instead of fighting it in order to follow the initial plan. In the modern fast-evolving world, we rarely encounter product requirements that do not change along the way. Agile principles set the highest priority on satisfying the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable designs and give instruments to deal with uncertainty.
The basic layout of the process includes six main stages: Understand, Research, Sketch, Design, Prototype, Test, and Refine. Design is now perceived as an iterative process. Designers have the freedom to accept that they might not have all the answers at the initial point. But solutions will emerge with every next iteration.
How is software design done in Agile projects? Let’s take a look. Scrum and Kanban are the two popular project management frameworks.
Scrum. The term “Scrum” is often used interchangeably with “Agile”, but this is not correct. As said before, Agile methodology describes a set of principles, while Scrum is an instrument of getting things done despite continuous delivery and improvement.
Kanban. Similarly, the Kanban board is a visual tool that allows one to represent and handle tasks with transparency and ease and helps teams to structure their work in a flexible and collaborative way.
Let’s focus on five key principles of applying Agile methodology to design.
The main premise for effective agile teamwork is that executives must understand the role that design plays in the success of a product. There are several practical tips on how to be on the same page:
give the product team the iteration zero at the start of the product development process
invite UX designers to take part in planning
give them the environment and support to boost creativity
ensure there is enough time for user research and testing
The recommended approach to design in an Agile project is continuous communication. One of the Agile principles states that face-to-face conversation is the most efficient method of conveying information to and within a product team.
It can be a regular meeting when designers, developers, and stakeholders get together in a real or virtual room to sketch out the architecture of the product. Such discussion will empower the team with a shared understanding of what they want to build.
It is rather risky to separate design from development because visual concepts might be technically insurmountable. On the other hand, a team of developers and designers will judge the solution realistiсally both from development and design perspectives. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
Another aspect is that the UI visual aspect shouldn't preside over UX. Inexperienced teams often tend to focus on visuals. But overlooking the UX might cause a failure of the product even with the most engaging visulas.
This principle is rather controversial because it means that you don’t always aim for perfection. Instead, the interim designs that teams deliver at the end of each development phase shouldn’t be ideal.
The principle of accepting the JBGE result leads to effectiveness and saves time. It does not imply low quality, as you might think. The main criterion of sufficient quality is the feedback from your stakeholders and audience. If they confirm that the design is good, just stop working on it. Working design is the primary measure of progress.
Agile is all about designing and shipping fast, therefore, the product team should stick to incremental alterations, rather than massive, all-at-once changes. It’s vital to estimate the time required to design and code new features and aim for the maximum possible simplicity.
Imagine that you are designing dashboards for an annual report. Do you really need a shadow under bars and pies to convey the progress? If not, it’s wiser to concentrate on more essential design aspects and make a deadline.
Indeed, Agile design brings a wide spectrum of benefits. However, we shouldn’t forget that this methodology works best under certain conditions.
Clients don’t wait for a long time to see the output, as they are involved in the process during each iteration.
While delivering small features one by one you can get instant feedback, identify problems, and respond to them on time.
Agile empowers teams to solve critical issues quickly. This not only saves a lot of money and time but also motivates the team since designers feel more productive.
Product teams should be resistant to criticism. As the Agile approach implies clients' feedback at all stages of the design process, team members should perceive constant problem-solving as the natural way to perfection.
Agile states that the best designs emerge from self-organizing teams. That is why executives must abstain from micromanaging and learn to trust their colleagues and their expertise. Still, Agile demands a leader who will be responsible for keeping the team on track.
One of the drawbacks of Agile design is that it can continue refining the product endlessly even if it is counterproductive. It’s essential to detect the point when the job is considered done.
The Agile methodology gives keys to delivering better products faster and at a lower cost. Teams are equipped with a mindset and communication patterns for solving imminent issues. What is more, executives, developers, and designers learn to work as one in order to deliver the most valuable product.
As a design agency with more than 5 years of experience, Arounda has encountered numerous situations when requirements have changed in the course of the project. Following the Agile approach, we were able to embrace those changes. That is why we are pretty confident to recommend the methodology to you.
If you need any other assistance in product design, branding, or strategy, we are here for you!
If you are working on the wireframe for the landing page and drawing sketches on the whiteboard, they might not be ideal but still, they help you to create the concept. If you continue to develop the wireframe in Figma or another design tool, it doesn’t diminish the usefulness of your sketches. They were good enough to find the solution and communicate it to the team. This example illustrates the iterative nature of the Agile design.
The order of steps in Agile projects design is the following: Understand, Research, Sketch, Design, Prototype, Test, and Refine.
The most widespread Agile models are Scrum, Crystal, Feature Driven Development (FDD), and Extreme Programming (XP).
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