By Stewart McCoy

UX, agile, and front-end development

I’ve been looking for some new, substantive reading on UX design for awhile now and came back to UX Matters this afternoon after having written it off a couple years ago as too academic. I was persuaded otherwise because two of their recent articles have some great and very timely ideas relevant to Opower’s product team that might help inform our thinking around how we want to work as we continue to grow our team and evolve our methods and workflow.

Agile UX

The first article, Agile User Experience Design, answers a reader’s question: “In your experience, what are the gaps between the agile development model and user experience design? What is the best way to fill these gaps?”

One thing that caught my attention in this article:

Recently, when working with a development team that didn’t have well-defined user stories that would allow them to define priorities or the scope of each iteration of the project, I volunteered to write the user stories myself. Having a clear vision and requirements are essential prerequisites to doing effective UX design, especially when working on a tight schedule. Whenever these are lacking on a project, I do whatever I can to bring clarity, even if it means that I need to take a greater role in requirements definition than a UX professional typically would.

One thing I really like about working at Opower is that I work very closely with the Director of Product and the Product Manager for my scrum team. I get to take an early and active role in requirements definition, which means I gain clarity on the primary UX concerns and am better prepared to advocate for those concerns and make recommendations to my engineering team during the development cycle. It’s a much better position to be in than doing sprint-ahead design work. However, I will admit that my design work is six months out on our roadmap, and that I don’t think that the other designers on my team don’t have the luxury of time. That said, I think the value is clear that, even on a condensed timeline, UX should be included as early as possible during requirements definition.

UX and Front-end development

I also think that the ideas in Great User Experiences Require Great Front-End Development are on point—basically that front-development is within the purview of UX and should be owned by the UX team. I think anybody who is attune to the web design community will recognize this in all the blog posts and tweets asserting that a web designer isn’t really a web designer if they can’t code there designs. The reason is because there is a very thin line between user interface design, interaction design, and front-end development, where product development is concerned. And for this reason, I see the UX developer role as becoming an essential addition to UX teams, and fundamental to easing the transition between product vision and implementation.

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