Product teams widely adopt the Agile design thinking approach to quickly and effectively create products that meet customer needs. Although Agile started in software engineering, it also proves efficient in design. In this article, we’ll examine Agile design and how it helps product teams speed up product delivery while preserving user experience quality.
Agile is a flexible and iterative method that supports delivering output in small segments. You divide the necessary functionality into multiple rounds, and by the end of each round, you provide the output to your customer.
There are many advantages of using an agile approach:
By delivering a limited feature, you have the opportunity to receive feedback after each round and therefore enhance your product in the next round. Customers gain transparency into the implemented functionality, enabling them to conveniently review and suggest modifications.
Customers do not have to wait for an extended period to see the output. They remain involved with the product throughout each round and have visibility into its progress.
Adapting to changes becomes easier as updating after a small iteration incurs lower costs compared to updating the product after full functionality is delivered.
Teams feel more productive as they are delivering something frequently and receive feedback on their deliverables.
By incorporating an Agile design methodology, both Agile methodology and design can harmoniously coexist.
Adopting an Agile design methodology allows you to employ a flexible and iterative method for delivering design to the customer. By breaking down the desired functionality into smaller iterations, you can share the design with the customer for feedback after each iteration. In an Agile design process, phases occur simultaneously.
Breaking functionality into smaller, independently deliverable parts enables faster design and quicker feedback on your progress.
This design methodology brings the following benefits:
Quickly understand customer needs by receiving feedback sooner, rather than waiting for a completed prototype.
Making changes to the design becomes easier and more cost-effective, eliminating the need for wasted time and resources.
Accelerate Development: By providing small segments of the design to the development team, you can speed up implementation, as the team does not need to wait for the full design to be finished.
Design Thinking and Agile are both approaches to addressing issues, but they focus on different aspects of the problem-solving process. Agile focuses on efficient solutions, while Design Thinking prioritizes empathy and uses an iterative process to identify new solutions and redefine problems. The five stages of Design Thinking aim to uncover alternative perspectives and potential solutions that may not be immediately obvious.
Observe users and their actions in context, identify patterns, ask questions, and challenge assumptions to gain insight, even if users may not be aware of or able to clearly express their needs.
Ensure success by identifying the right challenge and key needs, through a deep understanding of users and business context, to align solutions with organizational objectives while providing value to end-users.
Use techniques like brainstorming, mind mapping, sketching, or paper prototypes to take a step back, broaden your outlook, and uncover new and creative solutions not previously considered.
Bring your ideas to life by creating working prototypes instead of just describing them. This will enable you to rapidly put something in the hands of users and start gathering real-world feedback. Validate design decisions, understand user interaction, and identify usability issues by using Design Thinking throughout the process. This method allows for the ability to make changes and enhance the design based on user feedback rather than relying on unverified assumptions or guesses about user needs and preferences.
Glean insights from user experiences, iterate and repeat the process as necessary until you reach the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This approach helps you understand the needs, pain points, and feedback of the users by observing them in action and experimenting with different solutions. Based on the gathered insights, you can iterate and improve your product until you reach an MVP. This approach helps you to validate your ideas, reduce risks and make better-informed decisions.
When combined, Agile and Design Thinking foster a user-centered environment that prioritizes rapid and frequent iterations to achieve the best results. Use Design Thinking to pinpoint the right issues to address and then apply Agile methodologies to iteratively develop solutions to those issues. Design Thinking brings a robust emphasis on the user while Agile provides a reliable method for incrementally delivering solutions. User needs are consistently a top priority throughout the entire design and development process.
For teams who are just starting to implement Agile and Design Thinking, keep these four pieces of advice in mind when starting.
Target high-value, low-risk projects to gain experience with combining Design Thinking and Agile. As your team’s proficiency improves, take on more ambitious endeavours.
Create cross-disciplinary teams that work together to design and develop solutions and foster creativity. Position the team near end-users to facilitate frequent collaboration.
Blend design and development methodologies to balance the time spent on Design Thinking before starting development. Ensure the team understands the importance of Empathize, Define, and Ideate stages, and not limited to early stages.
Make sure that the user’s needs are consistently a top priority throughout the entire design and development process. The team should be ready to discover new user insights and re-frame the problem, and then continue development with a renewed sense of purpose.
In today’s fast-paced world, adhering to a traditional iterative design process can put you at a disadvantage in the competition. It’s essential to adopt an Agile design process that combines an iterative and incremental approach. This approach will increase productivity and keep you on course to achieve your goals.
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