Five Ideas For How UX Practitioners can Thrive in Agile Teams

Session Title

Five Ideas For How UX Practitioners can Thrive in Agile Teams


Anders Ramsay, Independent

Session Type: Presentation

Many UX practitioners are struggling to understand how their current practice integrates with the Agile practice. These are five ideas for how they can be empowered to thrive in Agile teams.

1 – Understand the Developer Perspective
The methods that fall under the umbrella of Agile were created by enterprise software developers, from the developer perspective, to solve developer problems. We’ll discuss how the developer perspective is in many ways the opposite of the UX perspective; while we focus on the surface layer, they are focused on what is happening behind the scenes. Understanding this high-level relationship between our work and theirs provides a great foundation for a strong working relationship.

2- Think of UX as the Human Layer to Agile
What is the algorithm for customer satisfaction? While the Agile machinery is incredibly powerful in allowing teams to work efficiently and communicate clearly, the subjective, emotional layer of a system is not something Agile accounts for. We’ll discuss how the UX practice transforms designs from being what the customer asked for to being what the customer really wanted but did not know how to ask for.

3- Everything Changes, and Yet Everything Remains the Same
We’ll debunk the myth that Agile requires UX practitioners to completely discard their traditional practice, discussing how you can continue creating the identical artifacts you currently are creating, such as wireframes, while simply thinking of and using them differently in the Agile context. Wireframes, even those that are highly detailed, are thought of less as design contracts and more as sketches. We’ll also discuss how familiar UX techniques can be powerfully transformed with a bit of Agile thinking. Time allowing, techniques we’ll cover will include Product Box, Grid Focus, Pair Design, and UX Office Hours.

4- Let Agile Give Your practice a Reality Kick in the Pants
We’ll discuss the UX Reality problem, i.e. that much of what we create describes the thing rather than is thing itself, and how Agile forces us to become more cognizant of what is real and what is imagined in the artifacts we create. We’ll also discuss how the use of timeboxing and iterating allows us to leverage the work of developers in evolving our design solutions, rather than (as is done in the traditional model), attempt to solve everything on our own.

5- Think of Agile as a simply a design mindset
In conclusion, we’ll take a broader view, discussing how Agile really is nothing more than a way of thinking about design, and one that can be effectively applied to any project, regardless of if you are working with a traditional or an Agile team.


Anders Ramsay is an independent consultant, design strategist, and Agile coach. As part of agencies large and small, as well as startups and multi-nationals, Anders has worked with clients including AOL, CBS, Deutsche Bank, FOX, JP Morgan, Sony Pictures, Turner Broadcasting, Viacom, and the City of New York.

Anders is also highly active in the User Experience Design Community, including leading the NYC IA Meetup since 2003, organizing a retreat for information architects in 2005, participating as a mentor to aspiring practitioners via the Information Architecture Institute Mentoring Program, and most recently starting the Agile Experience Design Meetup as well as the Agile Experience Design social network. He has also contributed articles to the Boxes & Arrows online magazine and has been a speaker and panelist at events and conferences, including the IA Summit and the Delve UI Master Class Conference.

Last but not least, Anders is currently writing a book on the very topic of this talk, “Agile Experience Design,” to be published in 2010 by Rosenfeld Media.


  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    UX designers can run, but they can’t hide from iterative development. If you’re not dealing with it now, you will be. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from Anders’ prez.

  2. Sigfrid
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    sounds interesting, specially because you are also an Agile coach. I have attended UPA 2009 conf. but I have been very disappointed by the quality of the speeches.

    I look forward for more news about your book.

  3. Posted September 21, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Not focused on interaction design enough. And really, hasn’t Agile been talked to death by now?