What is User Experience?

Websites and web applications are becoming more and more complex and technologically advanced. But no matter how much technology changes, a website or application’s success still depends on one thing: how users perceive it. Does the app, website, or product provide value to users? Is it easy to use or easy to complete tasks? Is the experience entertaining and captivating?

User experience or UX design is all about motivating designers to answer “Yes” to all of above questions. UX design is about effectively addressing the needs and circumstances of users, to produce an interface or model that is intuitive and fun to use. User experience design is the process of enhancing and ensuring user satisfaction by improving the usability, ease of use, and making sure the interactions between the user and the product are smooth and intuitive.

User Experience Design

Agile Development Introduction

Agile programming methods are families of software development that share common agile principles including the following:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a planƒ

[See Also: Declarative Programming in JavaScript Environments for App Development]

The agile development lifecycle is described as a series of incremental mini-releases also known as working versions. Each mini-release, with a subset of the features for the full release, has its own requirements analysis, design, code, implementation, and quality test phases. Each working version must be complete and stable, which makes it possible for the product release date to overlap with that of any working version. Working versions are created at regular intervals, called iteration cycles or sprints. Cycle end dates are fixed; features that cannot be completed are moved to the next working version.

Agile Development

The Challenge of Agile Methods

Agile development is gaining popularity and becoming an integral part of mainstream development. It is very difficult to build a precise and complete list of requirements, and then convert them into a operational and desirable product. Users do not know what they want in a product until they use it, so the product needs to go through multiple iterations of a development process before it achieves a high level of efficiency and elegance.

Agile’s major threat to system quality stems from the fact that it’s a method proposed by programmers and mainly addresses the implementation side of system development cycle. As a result, it every so often overlooks interaction design and usability.

Second, a development process is broken down into smaller parts that are completed one at a time. Such an approach risks discouragement the concept of a combined total user experience. Agile development typically builds features during fairly brief “sprints” that usually last around 2-3 weeks. With such tight deadlines, developers might bypass usability because they assume there’s no time to do testing or other user research.

[See Also: Who is the ‘User’ in an Agile User Story?]

Making Agile and Usability Work together

At the starting of each sprint or iteration, the developers have a UI model to follow. While the coding for sprint “X” is underway, the UX designers are working on the UI for sprint X+1. When sprint X is released, the UX Designers should conduct a usability test to identify any usability issues and feed that info back to the developers.

It is also known as the parallel track approach, where the UX work is continuously done one step ahead of the implementation work. This approach reduces some of the pressure for developers since the team has a model to start from. Keeping the UX Design a sprint ahead can help to avoid ambiguities. Agile testing adds to improvements. As the team gets more experienced with the process, this can be managed in a better ways.

Parallel Track Approach

Conclusion

Finally, usability testing is an important part of the agile methodology that can help you better understand the user’s needs and make your products and apps more useful to them. No matter how or when you test, you will get many benefits such as early problem detection, increased user satisfaction, increased efficiency for users etc. You will also get the innovative ideas and feedback for enhancements and new features that come directly from your customers.

The bottom line is that if you are developing in agile, then you should be integrating some form of usability testing into your iterative process. It just needs to capture user feedback in some way so that you can ensure a usable and desirable product.

As Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “One accurate measurement is worth more than a thousand expert opinions.”

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Zymr blogger, Zymr, Inc.

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