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Agile usability

This is a completed project.


the problem

Usable software is paramount to business success. Software development teams in industry recognize the importance of developing software that is usable, but achieving this is an on-going challenge. Despite having to work together on the same projects, usability specialists and Agile developers are often distinct communities with distinct perspectives on how best to create software. While Agile methods mainly describe activities addressing code creation, UX design methods describe activities for designing the product’s interaction with a user.

why it is worth addressing

When software teams work well together they have a better chance of delivering a quality product, which can in turn deliver benefits to the client and the software organization. Agile development and UX design activities can support each other when used together: up-front UX design supports building and maintaining Agile development’s notion of “vision” by providing a holistic view of the software under development while in return, Agile development supports UX design with opportunities for obtaining and incorporating feedback at regular intervals. Evidence shows that if developers and designers can work together, software quality and usability is improved, teams have a better working experience, improved role sharing and knowledge transfer. For example, the developers learn the value of UCD and the designers learn about the technical consequences of their designs.

limitations of current research

Our studies build on previous PhD research that has shown how bringing Agile development and usability together requires that developers and designers negotiate their day-to-day work such that each utilizes their skills and contributes to the software under development in a meaningful way. To date there are still very few similar studies where researchers engage with the settings in which practitioners work. Consequently, there is still little understanding of the realities of developing software in organizational settings.

our action research approach

Our aim is to develop practical solutions that address problems in an organizational setting. We are carrying out action research with industrial partners. Action research is a form of participatory research in which researchers spend time on-site with the teams they are studying and together identify problems and design solutions. We are engaging with industrial partners to obtain a deep understanding of the problems that practitioners encounter in context, so that process improvements for those specific circumstances can be suggested. Process improvements will be achieved through successive cycles of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting.



Agile usability story cards.