UX and Agile: A Match Made in Heaven for Software Users

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UX and Agile: A Match Made in Heaven for Software Users

Mixing agile with UX is like dancing: At first some toes will be stepped on, but with practice, it can become a great partnership.

· Agile Zone ·
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User Experience Designer

If you really want to create the most value for your customer, you can't skimp on UX design.

We’ve all probably experienced it. We have this great project, we have this great interface, and suddenly UX (User Experience) comes in and points out all these flaws and stops things, making us scramble to catch up.

If you’ve had this happen, you know that the goal of a great interface, put out on time, isn’t met. So how can we change this?

You may also like: 4 Fatal Pitfalls for UX Designers

Like everything else in Agile, it’s all about understanding roles and what everyone brings to the team. It’s about communication and coordination.

Mixing agile with UX is like dancing: At first some toes will be stepped on, but with practice, it can become a great partnership. What follows are a few ways you can leverage UX on your Agile team and unlock an asset you probably didn't realize you had:

Product Style Guide

UX can put together a Product Style Guide, including details on font & color selections, sample forms (with and without validation errors), standard workflows, and sample page layouts or templates. It can also include UI elements that need to behave consistently across the entire product. Having this well defined in one place makes it easy for developers to just grab a template and fill it with data, knowing that it is up to date.

During testing, have a UXer check for adherence to the Style Guide for UX consistency across the entire product.


Personas are another artifact UX can put together for your team, if you don’t already have them. A well-defined set of research based personas can provide a basis for greater empathy, especially if the user demographic is significantly different from the different team members.

Paper prototyping

Paper prototyping with user testing can refine a good design into a great design, just on paper, saving tons of time and money on development. You don’t have to actually code a new feature in order to test it.

Leading with data

Walk down the hall, and talk an idea over with a UXer. If a developer is deep in code and isn’t sure how a user would use a feature in real life, they can walk down the hall and get a UXer to find a data driven answer, not a guess. It is always better to get an answer now than later.

Usability testing

Have a UXer do a quick usability test before deployment to see how users actually use the new feature in real life. You can then have UX do more comprehensive usability testing after deployment in search of pain points that might be addressed in an upcoming sprint.

Usability testing can also uncover technically small tweaks that can make a huge difference in user happiness. For example, a page may be missing one key data point that they need to navigate elsewhere to find, then come back.

Most products have little UX goldmines like this that can greatly improve customer happiness for very little technical effort.

The earlier you work in UX, the better

Once the Product Owner has identified a Story for the next sprint, schedule in some time for a design session, and let your UX person put into practice some of the many tools they’ve learned. Don’t worry about bringing UX in too soon; bring it to their attention and let them decide if it is too early -- odds are, it isn’t.

A great partnership in action

Step 0:  In the beginning, you have an existing product or product idea.  

Step 1: UX steps in, and gets to know your product and your user base. 

Step 2: The product owner grooms the backlog, identifies a story to be addressed. Then the UX part of the sprint can begin. 

User research happens here. Interaction Design happens here. Prototyping and testing prototypes happens here. Be sure to add a significant chunk of time in your schedule for UX to perform their role.

Step 3: The development team builds the design from the validated prototype, consulting UX as desired. The developers are freed up to focus on coding and the technical aspects, delegating any UX issues to the UX people, during the heavy development phase.

Step 4: As the coding is completed, we enter the testing phase.  

UX can do a usability walk through and a style guide check.

Step 5: Deploy and iterate. With each iteration, UX and development become better partners. The product is improved both from a technical standpoint, as well as user happiness.

The design sprint feeds into the following development sprint. While development is coding the first design, UX is doing its research, then working with the product owner preparing for the next sprint.

UXers can be excellent resources throughout the whole product development cycle. 


Initially adding UX to your team can be challenging. Understanding a few different ways that UX can add value to your team can help. Handing off some tasks to UX can lighten the developers’ workloads, allowing them to focus on coding and the technical aspects. This can really speed up efficiency and quality simultaneously. 

With a little patience and practice, you’ll be dancing over those speed bumps in no time. You might eventually even wonder how you ever got along without it.

Further reading

UX Meets Agile: Design Studio Methodology

Why Is UX Such a Big Deal?

agile approach, customer centric, productivity, user experience, ux, ux and ui design solutions

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