I <3 Agile.

So, at my day job, we started the process of implementing agile development.  If you don’t know what this is, then you have probably like us…developing under a rock somewhere stealing internet from your local coffee shop (at least that’s my interpretation).  Anyway, its a pretty standard process among most interactive agencies, so its been a pretty exciting time for me and my colleagues at work.

We are in the middle of rapidly developing and designing a new look for the university.  This has been a crash course for the team and me especially,  given the pace we are working at.  For those of you who don’t know what agile is –here’s agile in a nutshell– its  a software development methodology that’s main tenant is to set small incremental goals, increasing success, and limiting failures.

So as a designer, I could ask— is this agile or fragile development?   I haven’t gotten a strong read on the designer community on this, so I can’t speak for all designers, but its been a great and freeing experience for me.

Design in the web space often feels like writing the ten commandments in stone, the irony  of this statement is not lost given the less indelible marks the media intrinsically has.

But I will say it—I often feel more trapped by web design then freed by it!  Until now, that is.  Agile is a designer’s dream (I realize one might argue that this might be the ramblings of someone still on honeymoon with agile )–especially one that is constantly changing her mind, upping her game, and pushing boundaries in her designs. But I will say it I <3 agile.

10 reasons why this designer loves agile:

1.) I see the design evolve giving me more time to process and test the UX of my design.  I can be certain the design that ends up at launch has all the kinks worked out early on with plenty of user input along the way.

2.) Race against the creative clock. I have always hated deadlines.  I remember breaking out in a cold sweat during timed math times-table tests and getting so upset that I would literally pass out at my desk from nerves.  That being said, I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines, they push me and in the end to create a sense of urgency in my work, but they can also destroy creativity. Working to a clock can be very stressful, and limiting.   Everyone has been on projects that either seemed to drag on for months with no progress, or were so rapid that you couldn’t even think about good design because the deadline was too soon. But two-four weeks is manageable, it feels like there is an end in sight.

3.) Happy clients=a less stressed designer. Clients see progress and that means more opportunity to get things right. I have redesigned many sites in the mid-night hour, moments before launch while the client hovered anxiously behind me dictating last minute changes.  The stress off retro-design is far worse then the client telling me four weeks, or even four months into the project that they hate it. I have time to course correct and find a solution. Plus the opportunity to tell them “we will get this right in the next scrum”, is like a nice security blanket against failure.

4.) I feel happy. It just feels good to see progress. After 4 years of waiting to redesign this page–seeing my designs come to life is a very gratifying experience.

5.) I can fail! Yep, I can have a bad design day! I can hand something to my developer, and not have to worry about designer’s regret the morning after launch. Obviously, you don’t want to drive the Dev. team crazy with ridiculous changes all the time–but at the same time I can feel less stressed if the creative vibe doesn’t hit me as quickly as the deadline did.

6.) Speak nerdy to me. Agile fosters collaboration forcing creatives and techies to speak the same language. Development and design teams hash out issues, collaboratively. Design isn’t issuing a decree from on high to development, or development refusing to play nice with mock ups. The process forces compromise and discussion. This makes a strong team, and fosters mutual respect for vastly different disciples and personalities.

7.) Agile limits distractions, and sets clear deliverables and expectations.  Agile provides a clear road map and sets priorities for each project.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the client, developer, or myself I can set realistic goals in agile and then actually have the ability to stick to them. The project doesn’t become overwhelming or unattainable, because un-prioritized tasks don’t override current tasks.

8.)  Details become the star in agile. I’m more thoughtful on functionality for elements. I pay more attention to detailed elements on a page when the deadlines are in small cycles. For example, the element control or to the drop shadow of my menu font, is much more painfully obviously wrong while working in agile, then in mass website launches where the rotators or fonts get lost or overlooked. I am a much more careful designer in agile.

9.) Agile can be the bad guy. If you are like any other designer you are working on many projects at once, and dealing with countless interruptions while doing it. I can say to the client or my boss (respectfully of course), “Sorry that task isn’t in this scrum, but let’s tackle it in the next one.” It allows you to say no, without sacrificing the project to scope creep, or being accused of not being a “team-player”.

10.) It just makes sense. Atferall, its like the old adage says, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. ” If the website is the elephant, agile is the spoon. So if you haven’t tried agile, take it from this designer, pick up a spoon and start eating now. Its so worth it.


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