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What is the importance of UX Design in Agile Software Development?

A Picture of Alejandra Rodriguez
July 02, 2018 | Topic: UI   UX  
What is the importance of UX Design in Agile Software Development?

UX design is a fundamental component when developing products and interfaces that meet the needs of demanding users. However, have you wondered about the “what”, the “when” and the “how” of UX design processes? In order to explore the fascinating and complex field of UX, this week we will be publishing a series of articles that discuss a variety of topics:

  1.  Our first blog examines the importance of UX designers in the software development lifecycle. We discuss how company culture influences the extent designers and developers work together, as well as we sharing our experience of building end-to-end services in our UX center of excellence.
  2.  The next article discusses how to choose the right set of UX techniques; we explore what are the axes and criteria to classify different methods, and how they can help us solve specific questions regarding our project.
  3.  Our third blog is about omnichannel experience; we examine key factors to offer seamless and enjoyable interactions across channels.
  4.  In the fourth article we’ll discuss the role of psychology and culture in visual interaction. We explore how cognitive structures and mental models shape the way customers interact with interfaces, and how designers can harness this to build great user experiences.
  5.  In our last blog, we examine key trends for 2018, ranging from voice-based systems to new UX job titles.

We will publish one article each day, so make sure to keep visiting our blog!

Why UX design is so important in agile software development

The objective of UX design is to create a frictionless and enjoyable experience for the user. UX designers boost customer satisfaction by providing better usability, accessibility and pleasure in the interaction with every aspect of a product. As user expectations continue to rise, UX designers need to have an eye for detail to properly guide them through an interface, while developers must ensure they create the best functionality and features. For instance, a one second delay in page response results in a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and the headline is responsible for about 80% of conversion rates. Companies rely on software to interact with their customers – and executives realize the importance of integrating design and engineering skills, to create the software and services which will drive their business forward.

Why UX design is so important in agile software development

How involved a UX designer is in the whole process depends to a great extent on company culture and the understanding the organization has of what a UX designer does. It is common to associate the roles of the UX (user experience) with the tasks of UI (user interface), leaving aside UX components like research, psychology, copywriting and analysis. UX designers go through a series of methods to answer questions such as, what kind of users are we addressing? What are their priorities and expectations? What are their motivations for engaging with a product? How is their general experience with interfaces? This data is analyzed in order to create a UX strategy which will be the foundation for the UI. The role of the UI is to use typography, color, and shape to create a visual experience where the user naturally navigates. This means UI is a vital component of UX. If organizations “educate” their employees about user design and interaction, UX design won’t act as a separate component of software development, but it will be integrated into the agile software development lifecycle.

Software companies can follow a series of strategies to integrate design and coding into all stages of product development. Firstly, they should provide time and resources to user research before they start the development process. User analysis is useful in determining what the product will be and it provides a user-centric approach to the initial processes of Agile such as product conceptualization and feature estimation. If designers provide a basis for developers, companies ensure right from the very start, that usability is as important as functionality.

UX designers should also work under the structure of Agile, using iterative processes to get feedback from users and quickly evaluate usability features. A useful method for designers to be able to work in parallel with developers is to be one sprint ahead. If they have time to conduct research and prepare designs before the sprint, design and development features will be evaluated and discussed at the same time with the product owner and stakeholders. If modifications need to be done during development processes, the UX designer must provide guidance into how to solve those problems from a user experience perspective. An issue that costs $1 to be solved at the design stage, costs $10 to be solved during development, and $100 after the product’s release. If a UX designer is involved in software development, companies save time and money, implementing user centered processes.

Although it is not common, UX designers can also work alongside the quality assurance (QA) team. The job of a QA is to identify errors or bugs in the code, but they simply don’t have the depth of usability or design expertise that a UX designer can bring. Having a UX designer involved with quality assurance, means teams are one step ahead. Once the product has been launched, developers and designers continue to work together in order to refine aspects of user interaction. As technology rapidly changes, functionality and usability expectations will never be static, that is why the final product needs to be tested and updated.

In addition, UX designers can put into practice their skills to improve communication with the development team and other areas of the company. Tools like prototypes or wireframes are very useful to inform other groups about the current state of the project in terms of user interaction, fostering day-to-day collaboration and awareness of each other’s work.

Here at Belatrix we created a UX center of excellence to provide end-to-end services for our customers. The purpose of it is to evaluate the expectations and needs of our clients and their users before the project goes to development processes. It provides additional value for our customers because we are able to detect issues and problems in early phases. We use Agile as a standard methodology which means our designers work in iterations to constantly test and validate features. One of the most important strategies used in the UX center of excellence, is the omnichannel approach, which allows customers to have a seamless experience through integrated multi channels in their journey to acquire a product. This means the users can start their experience on a mobile application, continue on a web page and finish in a physical place. As a result, companies can establish a dialogue with their users to offer the best quality of experience in every channel.

To conclude, companies should integrate the expertise of UX designers in software development to make sure the product meets the needs of the user at all levels. By following user-centered processes, software companies can boost performance and avoid economic risk while they deliver a digital experiences with high quality of engineering and design features that will ensure customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty.

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