3 Problems with UX in the Agile Enterprise

Many enterprise organizations are in the process of adopting or are already practicing some form of Agile development. Digital experience architecture and design professionals need to adopt Agile approaches when working with Agile development teams. While it has been the method of choice for start-ups for many years, most enterprise organizations have struggled to go fully or even partially Agile. Some of this has to do with the large number of stakeholders and teams involved in enterprise development. Where I work currently has been trying to go Agile for several years now and I have talked with a few colleagues where they have had more success. The following are some common issues I’ve faced or heard about from UX teams in enterprise organizations trying to adopt Agile methods and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

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Developing a Set of Web & Mobile Heuristics

Web & Mobile sites are not desktop software

There are a number of interface guidelines and heuristics to help evaluate user interfaces. One of the most well known are Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design. These were developed by Nielsen in the mid 90’s and were intended for the evaluation of user interfaces for computer software applications in general. He has since then revised them several times, but they remain rooted in the desktop in my view.

In designing and building websites it seemed to me that some of these heuristics did not translate well to the web and even more so now for mobile. While some rules could be rephrased to be more applicable to web sites, others when it comes down to it, really do not apply to the web. I also felt that several items were too closely related to each other and could be better understood as a single point.

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Responsive Retrofitting

When I first designed this site, responsive design was not as big as it is now. My main focus was getting a site dedicated to my interests in UX issues up and running as quickly as possible. After the big push to get it launched, I settled into the satisfaction of indifference that follows such endeavors. I knew that responsive design was the wave of the future, but it was not now for me at least. However, it was not long before the responsive design clarion bells of Luke Wroblewski and others clanged in my subconscious as I read various articles on the surge in mobile usage.

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How Microsoft can succeed with Windows 8

So I got a new Macbook pro with retina display and along with the upgrade to Mountain Lion (I’ll write another article on that experience later), I also upgraded my Parallels virtual machine and Windows system as well. For my current work environment, I was still using Windows XP for the most part and at home I had a Windows Vista system that I really used only to test things in IE 9. I had seen several folks with Windows 7 and it seemed that Microsoft had worked out most of the problems with Vista with that version. Although I never really had many problems with Vista as I did not have any peripherals I needed to connect.

I think it is obvious that with this new version of Windows, Microsoft is looking to not just gain ground on Apple and Google, they are looking to bypass them. Unlike the muddled failure that Vista was, where most problems were hardware compatibility and a few usability issues, this time around the problems are hardware utility and perhaps some major usability issues.

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Recruiting the right participants for research

Often one of the biggest challenges of conducting user research is not writing out proper tasks (although that is challenging as well), or setting up the space and equipment, or even running the actual sessions, it is finding the right participants. Finding the right someone to observe and give useful feedback on your application or web site can make a all the difference in getting the right information to make decisions on how to improve your product. In fact, observing the wrong people can lead you to the wrong conclusions about what may or may not be working on your site. The following are some helpful tips and recommendations for getting the right participants.

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Amazon.com does not allow guest checkouts

As I was reviewing the checkout process for a variety of ecommerce sites a few years ago, I found that amazon.com no longer offered the option to checkout without registration. I vaguely remember that they did allow guest checkout at one time, but it had been years since I did my first checkout with them and of course I do not regularly pretend to be a first time shopper on their site. So I was mildly surprised to see that they no longer offer this option. This is often promoted as a must have for ecommerce sites and yet, here is arguably the most prominent ecommerce site, if not one of the largest, and they require users to register in order to checkout.

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UX myths and misconceptions

There have been quite a few articles on the subject of UX myths. Basically, a UX myth would be an erroneous belief, misunderstanding, or misapplication of a UX method or principle. There is even a site dedicated to the listing of what are considered UX myths conveniently named uxmyths.com. There are a number of very good articles on the site alone. They also do a great job linking to multiple sources and research around each issue they list. However, there are also several topics that I feel are debatable.

Regrettably, they do not allow any comments on the site, so it is not a good place for really discussing ways to avoid or dispel them, or as in my case, dispute their status as myth in the first place. In most cases, many myths can simply be addressed by educating people in proper UX methodology. However, there are not many places for real discussions on the discipline and practice of good UX online. For the most part there are experts and consultants like Steve Krug, Jesse James Garrett, Jared Spool, and Don Norman who speak at conferences and work with businesses. Yet, their sites do not offer any opportunity to post questions, let alone discuss issues in UX. There are sites like stack exchange and quora that have UX sections, but it does not seem there is much discussion on these myths. I don’t presume that my site could serve that purpose, but I have my own myth to share here and am happy to post any feedback.

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How many participants do you need for a usability test?

Quite a while back Jacob Nielsen published on his site an article suggesting that 5 users are enough to uncover most of the problems in an interface when user testing. There has actually been quite a lot of research on this subject. Over at the measuringusability.com site by Jeff Sauro you can can read A Brief History of the the Magic Number 5 in usability testing to find a pretty well laid out chronology on the research.

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UX and Agile

A topic that seems to be occurring with more regularity is whether UX can work with Agile methodologies. I think many UX folks may have struggled with organizations that are planning or already use an agile development method for a couple of reasons. However, lets start with understanding what Agile is and what it is really intended to solve. In my humble opinion, Agile is actually designed to address the fact that there is little or no UX process or UX people in the places that pioneered and use this approach.

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