OutSystemsDev Zone

Adopting Usability in an Agile Environment

Gem, User Experience Engineer of OutSystems, closed track 2 sessions by talking about how usability and agility can work well together.

Gem started by highlighting the similarities between usability and Agile, including the fact that they are iterative and that they both mean extra value for the company. But, as Gem pointed out, there are also some fundamental differences, including the fact that usability is slower than Agility and most feedback is gathered from outside the team, as opposed to coming from the team.

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Because of this, mixing both can be a challenge, and Gem pointed out some pitfalls that should be avoided. The main point here was that, if you try to mix the traditional way of doing usability – using an independent usability team with a long usability analysis – the usability professionals will struggle and the results will be poor. After all, by the time the usability tests are available, the Agile built application will have change to accommodate the latest user feedback!

Gem shared with the audience some practices to avoid this problem and to ensure that usability goes along with agility. These include setting usability goals per sprint, make sure feedback is gathered along with other sprint feedback, and most importantly that there is a usability expert in each team. If having a usability expert per team is not possible, select someone in the team to play the role of usability advocate.

To give an example of a project where usability and agility worked well together, Gem used OutSystems ECT. According to Gem, ECT is a great example of how usability and functionality work well together, not only providing a good user experience for the end-user, but also providing all the needed information for the agents that will deal with the feedback.

For wrap-up, Gem gave some advices to add usability to your applications. The most important one is that the developer of the application must realize he or she is not the user! Using the OutSystems style guide is also good idea to ensure usability.

Ideally this would all be followed with frequent user testing, but since having few tests is better than having no tests, Gem suggested that if all else fails, cheat! Do hallway tests, do some tests that don’t require users, follow standards, and use what worked well for others!

About the author

Rodrigo Coutinho

A member of the founder’s team, Rodrigo has a passion for web development, great products, and geeky stuff. He spends his time designing future versions of the OutSystems Platform and dreaming about the cool future of the web.

Comments

Interesting post. I suspect lots of Agile teams struggle with incorporating usabiity into their agile processes. Where can I learn more about this issue?

Gem Bleasdell

While there are limited resources on this issue, you can try the following sites for information:
http://www.agilemodeling.com/essays/agileUsability.htm
http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/agile_usability_engineering.html
http://www.infoq.com/news/2008/11/agile_usability

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