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Managing a UX Design Project: Tips and Tricks

ux agile

User experience (UX) is a risk mitigation discipline that optimizes the extent to which a design works for its users. And you must expect that there would be much risk of design failure when needing to collaborate with executives, project managers, content strategists, front-end development, back-end development, quality assurance, and product owners. Project managers almost universally use their own blend of agile methodology and project tools to track these types of changes, but it isn’t easy.

Here’s a basic primer on project management for UX.

UX Design in Agile Methodology

Agile Scrum methodology is a results-first strategy that prioritizes putting a product into the product owner’s hands. From there, the product owner can initiate direct collaborative input.

In the tech industry, agile development makes sense. By involving the product owner early on in the process, the developers reduce the chances they could end up with an end product that doesn’t meet business objectives and user needs. It can be challenging for a product owner to identify all of the users’ their needs until starting product design.

Before jumping into your agile sprints (units of time), it’s best to get the overall strategy work done at Iteration 0. Why? Sprints can be very intense and time sensitive. So, it’s best to get as much of the strategy work out of the way earlier on. For example, have your discovery stage complete, including stakeholder interviews, user interviews, persona development, and use cases.

When it comes to UX design, agile methodology forces a design out the door that can then be reviewed and modified more fluidly (or more agilely). New design iterations of the framework are modified as needed and testing them in an extremely tight and effective process. For example, sketching, wireframing are recommended Rapid Prototyping and Lean UX approaches to leverage for this purpose.

UX Research in Agile Methodology

Weave the user research sessions into your sprints. So, use a formative approach of testing users in small sample sizes to get quick insights within your sprints. Use these sessions as your compass to ensure your design is evolving in the right direction, just like you should do with your personas.

It would be ideal for your test users to be external to the company. However, for practical purposes in meeting time and logistically constraints, it can be helpful to recruit users that work at your company. It’s important, though, to ensure that the users recruited are not too familiar with the product and have profiles that are very similar to the personas that you’re targeting. Otherwise, it becomes challenging to identify true pain points of your users once the new product is launched.

User experience will look to optimize a user’s ability to:

  • Locate the information, tools, or features they want
  • Anticipate what will happen when they interact with an application
  • Learn how a system works through intuition

A solid solution will provide an easy UX, even if the software itself is quite complex.

Much of the UX design inspiration comes from testing. It’s not always easy to anticipate what users will find cumbersome or what features they will need. As the development and testing process continues, UX Specialists will discover new valuable interactions that will become incorporated into the agile iterations.

The agile methodology emphasizes small, manageable iterations of software. This is particularly useful with formative UX methods, where small, individual, and independent changes can be tested.

Project Management for UX Designers

Here are some popular project management tools used in the UX field:

  • Basecamp. A project management solution, Basecamp makes it possible to connect with all team members regarding projects and tasks.
  • Slack. A communication platform, Slack provides instant messaging and meeting functionality for team members.
  • Trello. An easy-to-use and simple project manager, Trello provides an agile-focused method of tracking tasks.
  • Asana. A cloud-based project management system, Asana provides both traditional task tracking and “post-it” task tracking.
  • Jira. An issue tracking product developed by Atlassian that allows bug tracking and agile project management.
  • Smartsheet. Software application for collaboration and work management. It’s used to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, share documents, and manage other work. It has a spreadsheet-like user interface, which makes it super easy for those who like using spreadsheets.

Of course, there are also still many developers who also operate with post-it notes on a wall, or a whiteboard scrawled with notes. It’s often the process that is more important than the tools.

Challenges of Project Management and UX Design

Applied to front-end development, there are some unique concerns for modern UX design and agile methodology. A good UX accounts for technology, design, research, marketing, and data analysis. All of this together means that a company needs to explore multiple factors before making decisions regarding the modification or alteration of its UX design.

It also means that many team members need to be very familiar with other disciplines. A project manager needs to understand UX in order to understand what is feasible to deliver. A UX designer needs to understand project management in order to be able to convey potential issues. Meanwhile, both need to be able to understand user research and analysis, because without this, it’s challenging to arrive at the right design implications within the desired timeframe and budget.

The field of UX is constantly changing and developers need to change with it. By using an agile methodology, UX designers can work more closely with end users and product owners to make sure that the UX is clear and well-integrated with the rest of the solution.

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Post Summary

  • Basecamp. A project management solution, Basecamp makes it possible to connect with all team members regarding projects and tasks.
  • Slack. A communication platform, Slack provides instant messaging and meeting functionality for team members.
  • Trello. An easy-to-use and simple project manager, Trello provides an agile-focused method of tracking tasks.
  • Asana. A cloud-based project management system, Asana provides both traditional task tracking and “post-it” task tracking.
  • Jira. An issue tracking product developed by Atlassian that allows bug tracking and agile project management.
  • Smartsheet. Software application for collaboration and work management. It’s used to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, share documents, and manage other work. It has a spreadsheet-like user interface, which makes it super easy for those who like using spreadsheets.
Abdul SuleimanAbdul SuleimanChief Experience Officer

Abdul is our founder and CEO. He’s helped over 40 Fortune 500 companies make informed user-centered design decisions through evidence-based user research and UX best practices. As an Adjunct Professor, Abdul has taught in DePaul University’s graduate UX programs and for nine other universities.

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