Debunking the Myth on Agile T Shaped UX Designers


UI Design and Sketching

I have been interested in agile process for a while, especial it’s use with UX techniques.

The other day I ran into a myth that there aren’t many User Experience Design people with skills that can work on agile teams.

It seems UX people aren’t very flexible.

This I find almost laughable, in fact most UX professionals I have found are extremely flexible, often changing tack or techniques as required, at a moments notice.  Maybe we are too flexible.

The core of any agile process really is to have a role less team that can specialists with generalised skills.

Having the traditional defined roles of a Architect, Business Analysis, Project Manager and Developer is really against the principles of working as a collaborative team to achieve days tasks.

In fact what you want to have is the entire team being “T” shaped in a way.    With just deep specialisation in key areas, but still able to operate on other duties as required to get the team over the line.  Hence like the rise of the UX Developer.

Looking at this mix, maybe a User Experience Design “T” shaped person is also required.

Well it seems that “user experience” or even “design” is still a dirty word in the agile sphere.

Sadly I see this time and time again.  The UX specialist is brought in on a agile project at the end or just to correct some issues.   The consistency of maintaining the user experience is often lost as they leave.

The reason given is often that they can’t find UX people to met the team requirements when they are building the team.  Or that the user experience or requirements aren’t on the clients mind.

There is also a false belief that there aren’t any designers that can code (at least on the front end) and understand User Experience and maybe get Usability too.

Looking in the Wrong Place.

I’m calling people out on this one!  I know a lot of my freelance contacts (including me) who are UX or design based could fill any of these “missing skills” for an agile team.

The people exist, we the “T” shaped UX people are sitting around waiting.

It’s just your recruiters or  team builders that aren’t looking in the right places or asking the right questions.

Mainly this comes from the way people are recruited – along old school waterfall process – go get a BA, a Project Manager, a few Developers and maybe a tester or two.   Unless the BA and Testers are closet UX people, and it does happen, the project is going to face issues.

Which is a pity as these project could escape the usual last few sprints with the UX polishing consultant, and do it all properly from the start and save resources.

I guess that solution is for all UX people to just say they are a BA instead.

Will be very interesting to see the audience attending the upcoming Agile UX  Conference in Sydney.

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1 comment

  1. Hi Gary,

    I think whether UX people are flexible or not depends on the organization and the culture of the organization.

    By the way, you have a very nice name for your blog (it’s an oxymoron – manwithnoblog?)

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