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Adapting Usability Investigations for Agile User-Centered Design

Desiree Sy

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 2, Issue 3, May 2007, pp. 112-132


When our company chose to adopt an Agile development process for new products, our User Experience Team took the opportunity to adjust, and consequently improve, our user-centered design (UCD) practices. Our interface design work required data from contextual investigations to guide rapid iterations of prototypes, validated by formative usability testing. This meant that we needed to find a way to conduct usability tests, interviews, and contextual inquiry—both in the lab and the field—within an Agile framework. To achieve this, we adjusted the timing and granularity of these investigations, and the way that we reported our usability findings.

This paper describes our main adaptations. We have found that the new Agile UCD methods produce better-designed products than the “waterfall” versions of the same techniques. Agile communication modes have allowed us to narrow the gap between uncovering usability issues and acting on those issues by incorporating changes into the product.

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Adapting Usability Investigations for Agile User-Centered Design