UX London: Agile UX Rugby

by April 18, 2012

In his Agile UX Rugby presentation at UX London 2012 Anders Ramsay outlined the challenges of integrated user experience design in agile development workflows and shared ways to make it work. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • Lots of teams working to adopt agile user experience are struggling. User Experience Rugby is a way to help manage the process.
  • Feeding the Beast: common dysfunction where one designer can’t keep up with the demands of many developers building fast.
  • Half-baked UX: under pressure to deliver the next release, a team signs off on bad designs just to launch them.
  • Sprint Tunnel Vision: when a team gets too focused on a specific release, and loses sight of the big picture of what they are building.
  • Faux Agile: having lots of process in place but not building on a regular basis.

A New Game

  • A lot of these challenges stem from playing the old waterfall game in agile. You need to learn how to play the agile game.
  • Waterfall is like a relay race: collaboration is not part of the game. Each racer is on their own for a while. There is one big finish at the end.
  • Agile is more like rugby: intensive and continuous collaboration is part of the game. Cross the finish line as many times as possible.
  • Agile meetings are more collaboration-centric. You need a toolkit for working with teams. Facilitation needs to become a core skill set.
  • Traditional User Experience elements like usability and design don’t go away in agile. Instead new collaboration and delivery methods are added. In Lean UX, measuring and validating methods are added.

Agile UX Techniques

  • Ideation Clearinghouse: capture the imagined final product quickly. Work with stakeholders to make sure everything is moving toward the same goal. Start with an outline of focus and boundaries. Then generate some raw materials with sketches/ideas.
  • Cardstorming: give everyone 3-5 minutes to get a lot of ideas out quickly on note cards.
  • Sketching Timebox: everybody in the room needs to sketch individually for 5 min. This is for research, not to design the final product.
  • Critique: the most critical part of the process. 2 minutes for each person to present and then a free-form discussion. Look for and work to resolve vision differences. Take notes on post-its and attach them to sketches –you don’t want to loose this research data.
  • You are replacing lots of documents with intense team collaboration.
  • Pairing: a back and forth conversation/coding session. There’s continuous debugging and knowledge distribution during this very focused activity.
  • X-Paring: is a cross functional process to design in multiple dimensions simultaneously. A continuous back and forth between code and design.
  • The whole team is running up the field in parallel. Keep passing the ball back and forth.

Designing while Building

  • Requires three things: support current sprint, preparing for next sprint, and maintaining the whole product. Kind of like juggling while running.
  • This is often more of a logistics issue than a design challenge.
  • Automate collaboration with cadences: something that happens at the same time/same place.
  • User Fridays: on a certain cycle, a number of users show up at your office. This makes the process of getting feedback an ongoing activity. Show whatever is ready.
  • Design studio: gets people collaborating on product design.
  • GOOPing: getting out of the building. Have the whole team get out to see customers in the field.
  • Cadence ensures that not only designers are responsible for juggling product design.


  • Lean start-up teaches us that shipping is only the beginning. Gather key metrics from customers right form the beginning.
  • Test: is this user-friendly vs. would you pay for this
  • This broadens the research you are doing on an ongoing basis.
  • Keep doing what you are doing, but do it faster and in smaller pieces.