The Agile Architect

How Agile Are You? Let's Actually Measure It! (Part 3: User Experience)

Our Agile Architect shares the third part of his Agile Assessment, focusing on the user experience.

For more articles in this series, please use the following links:

The first in this series of articles, How Agile Are You? Let's Measure It!, looked at the value as well as illusions/pitfalls of measuring agile maturity. And then we covered the first two areas of assessment, technical craftsmanship and quality advocacy.

In this section, we will dive deeper into the realm of the user experience (UX).

About the User Experience
You'll notice below that there are not many assessment questions on UX, nor are there many previous Agile Architect columns on the subject. This should not be taken to mean that UX is not important. On the contrary, it is so important and so different from the act of software development that we have UX specialists who have extremely effective methods of advocating for the optimal user experience. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. Hence the paucity of material represents my own ignorance.

I have discussed UX in these previous Agile Architect articles:

Below are the assessment specifics for the user experience assessment area. Please see the introduction article for a description of the 0-5 scoring methodology referenced. While not shown below, zero should be used when there is no capability in any particular area.

Area 3: User Experience Scoring

A. Graphic Elements

  1. Graphic elements are pulled from the Web, standard libraries or other third party sources.
  2. Graphic elements are created as needed by developers or others.
  3. Graphics are created by professional designers as part of the development process. They may be part of the team or external to the team. Requests for design elements happen as needed.
  4. Requirements for graphic elements are part of the team process. Designers are integrated into the team process so they have insight and input into the stories. Graphic designers have a role in creating stories, creating design elements and reviewing the use of the graphics elements in the finished story. Graphic designers solicit feedback from their peers on the design elements. A UI Guidelines document exists and is used to drive consistency.
  5. Graphic designers have the ability to update, modify and experiment with design elements without the need for software developers. They routinely play with the app to try out different design ideas and solicit feedback on the improvements. The UI Guidelines document is updated accordingly.

Principles: Value Delivery, Business and Development Collaboration, Communication

B. UX

  1. The team reviews the user interaction on an ad hoc basis at least once before a major release.
  2. The team reviews completed features and stories for the user experience.
  3. The team has a process to define the user experience as part of the feature and story definition. Input from users and UX experts may be solicited.
  4. The team has a well defined UX process infused in the larger feature/story definition process. UX is incorporated at multiple points along this process. Usability testing and/or other methods are used to quantitatively measure the user experience.
  5. Team actively experiments with new user experience methodologies and practices and is using metrics to measure the effects.

Principles: Value Delivery, Business and Development Collaboration, Communication, Technical Excellence

C. Usability Testing

  1. The team performs ad hoc usability tests at least once before a major release.
  2. The team performs ad hoc usability tests for each feature.
  3. The team has a well defined process to perform usability tests on all completed stories and features. Feedback from the tests trigger changes in the app implementation.
  4. The team has a well defined usability testing process infused in the larger feature/story definition process. Usability testing is incorporated at multiple points along this process before, during and after development. Results are used to update feature and story definitions. Metrics based on the results drive direction in the UX design guidelines.
  5. Team actively experiments with new usability testing methodologies and practices and is using metrics to measure the effects.

Principles: Value Delivery, Business and Development Collaboration, Communication, Technical Excellence

Please see the next article in this series for the next assessment area, team dynamics.

About the Author

Dr. Mark Balbes serves as Vice President, Architecture at WWT Asynchrony Labs, and leads multiple Agile projects for Government and Fortune 500 companies. He received his Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from Duke University in 1992, then continued his research in nuclear astrophysics at Ohio State University. Dr. Balbes has worked in the industrial sector since 1995 applying his scientific expertise to the disciplines of software development. He has led teams as small as a few software developers to as large as a multi-national Engineering department with development centers in the U.S., Canada, and India. Whether serving as product manager, chief scientist, or chief architect, he provides both technical and thought leadership around Agile development, Agile architecture, and Agile project management principles.

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