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Integrating UX Design into Agile Software Development

UX asked Jeff Gothelf to share his thoughts about leadership in incorporating UX design into Agile software development. Here, in edited form, is his response.

After three and a half years as director of User Experience (UX) at TheLadders, I was asked to lead my UX team’s integration into an Agile development process. In that task, I took a hard look at the way we were currently working and how this matched with our organization’s needs. I also looked at the way the technology products marketplace was working.

The speed and frequency with which software products are getting to market has increased dramatically from years to a matter of months, or in some extreme cases, to weeks. Companies that are accustomed to long development-and-release cycles are being disrupted by smaller companies that are willing to validate their business models with significantly fewer feature-rich products.

The project management tool Basecamp ( is a good example. Their developers took a look at the feature bloat, the software platform, and the long release cycles of something like Microsoft Project, and re-imagined its most useful features—and only those features—in a web-based offering. The result has been wildly successful. Basecamp’s developers constantly adjust in frequent iterations of design, updating their product based on real customer feedback.

Becoming a Leader

After hypothesizing and refining several different approaches to the integration of the organization’s development needs with marketplace demands, it became clear to me that simply shifting the way the UX team worked was not enough.

Agile and UX integrations typically start by trying to cram everything the UX team is doing, pre-Agile, into the shorter time frames (often just two weeks long) of the sprint. This approach usually fails because there simply is not enough time to go through the entire UX toolkit with the full depth previously allowed by a waterfall project or a longer iterative design schedule.

Instead, team members (that is, from both software engineering and UX design) need to focus on how better to communicate with each other to reduce their reliance on highly detailed documentation. The specifications and other traditional deliverables take too much time to produce and require many signatures before others on the team, never having read the documentation, can even begin their work. This approach simply does not compute.

Our entire development team culture (again, comprising both software engineering and UX design) had to adjust—to be more inclusive, collaborative, and transparent. Agile adoption requires a shift in the organizational mindset towards a product-development philosophy more than just another methodology. By accepting a level of comfort with the ambiguity of Agile’s short- to mid-term window of visibility, the organization becomes much more flexible and, thus, able to react to market feedback and, consequently, to unexpected changes. If the product development organization has bought in on Agile, but management is still making waterfall-style demands, the clash will cause the project to fail. The entire company must agree to work this way.

By bringing these ideas to the organization as a whole, at the company level (that is, involving business management, engineering, and marketing), I was able to get buy-in from them for this cross-functional, transparent philosophy while securing a seat at the management table, as not only a UX and design leader, but as a process and organization leader.

Taking It On the Road

I have been given permission to make a presentation about leadership in Agile UX design based on my company’s experience, which I plan to give at conferences. My introduction to Agile UX began with a significant amount of research, including interviewing others who had tried to integrate UX and Agile. I spoke with people at,, Citrix, Liquidnet, and Wireless Generation, all of which came recommended as companies that had succeeded with such integration.

The insight the people at these companies provided was tremendously helpful in giving me a direction, and I built on the details from those conversations. Some felt they had succeeded, and others felt they failed. All of their ideas were valuable. The integration of Agile UX was, in itself, a highly iterative learn/fail/iterate effort that revealed itself gradually.

In my current presentation about my experience, I share what I have learned with UX and design team leaders and organizational leaders who are currently navigating Agile transformations. Almost all individual contributors, managers, and leaders who are seeking a more collaborative workplace, and a changed relationship with their colleagues, stand to learn some useful ideas. The current version of my presentation can be viewed on Slideshare The presentation, just like the philosophy, is a work in progress. I welcome feedback. That’s the Agile way.用户体验杂志邀请 Jeff Gothelf 分享他在敏捷软件开发过程中整合用户体验设计的经验。他通过一系列的案例总结了其中的经验教训,并且解释了他在这一过程中作为一个负责流程的经理和一个团队领导者自身角色的演变。

文章全文为英文版UX가 Jeff Gothelf 씨에게 UX 디자인을 애자일 소프트웨어 개발에 통합하는 데 있어 리더십에 관한 그의 경험을 공유해달라는 부탁을 했을 때, 그는 UX 디자인 기술을 애자일 소프트웨어 사이클에 통합하면서 얻은 정보의 사례사와 그에 따른 프로세스 매니저와 팀리더로서의 그의 역할 발전에 대한 이야기를 우리에게 제공하였습니다.

전체 기사는 영어로만 제공됩니다.O designer de experiência do usuário compartilha como mudou a mentalidade de sua organização para um processo integrado de desenvolvimento ágil de software e experiência do usuário.

O artigo completo está disponível somente em inglês.UXがJeff Gothel氏に、UXデザインのアジャイルソフトウェア開発への統合に取り組むリーダーとしての経験を話してくれるようにお願いしたところ、UXデザインテクニックをアジャイルソフトウェア開発に統合し、その結果として起こったプロセスマネージャーとチームリーダーとしての彼の役割の進化から彼が学んだ教訓の数々を提供してくれた。

原文は英語だけになりますUn diseñador de UX comparte cómo cambió la mentalidad de su organización y consiguió que se aceptara un proceso de desarrollo de software Agile UX integrado.

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