Agile Development: A Quickstart Guide for Designers
Today, Agile development has become the norm in the software industry. However, for designers who have never worked in this field, the term “agile” might sound quite peculiar. The following quick guide includes what you should know as a designer to successfully follow common agile practices.
Agile came about in 2001 when a group of software developers decided that they needed a different workflow. They formulated the Agile Manifesto and added twelve principles that define the criteria for agile software development processes.
Four basic Agile values include:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Comparing to Agile, the traditional Waterfall approach is a sequential design process which means that each of the eight stages (conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, implementation, and maintenance) are completed, the developers move on to the next step. As Waterfall is sequential, once a step has been completed, developers can’t go back to a previous step.
Agile, in its turn, is iterative and incremental and focuses on keeping the code simple, testing often, and delivering functional bits of the application as soon as they’re ready. In other words, Agile is time-focused and allows to build a product step-by-step, which gives the ability to adapt and change at any step.
How it works
Here are four basic notions that are a must-know in a practical design situation.
- Product backlog: a list of all things/features that need to be done within the project. The most important items are shown at the top of the product backlog so the team knows what to deliver first.
- Sprint backlog: a list of tasks identified by the team to be completed during the sprint. The team selects some number of product backlog items, usually in the form of user stories, and identifies the tasks necessary to complete each user story.
- User story: a written sentence or two and, a series of conversations about the desired functionality.
- Potentially shippable product: the sum of the product backlog items delivered at each sprint.
What you need to know as a designer
- When working with user interface products, begin with a user persona (a representation of the goals and behaviour of a hypothesised group of users) that you’ve created, examine the needs of your target audience and use them to define the features required.
- To estimate things accurately, turn to the product manager who is responsible for keeping product items in check. Otherwise, you might be tempted to go for unrealistically positive estimates.
- Always keep in mind that Agile is a highly collaborative approach. In contrast to Waterfall where you simpy hand over your designs to developers and never see them again, in Agile you work shoulder to shoulder with developers to meet objectives with each iteration.