Successful sprints in Agile UX are all about preparation

Agile UX is well known by now for its sprints – two-week periods that don’t leave time or room for miscalculation when it comes to executing research. While this can seem daunting at first, organizations around the world are embracing these constraints and making great strides with the sprint model.

After all, constraints aren’t inherently bad. It just requires making intelligent use of time and resources. This is why the key to their success is prep work before the sprint takes place.

With this is mind, here are three tips to help you prepare for a successful sprint.

Tip 1: Develop User Stories

Joseph Dickerson, UX lead at Microsoft, recently told us, “The best thing about Agile, to me, is user stories. They describe in a simple narrative way what the functionality of the system being designed needs to be.”

User stories are vital prep work to conduct before sprints because they describe the different types of users you have, what they want, why they want it, and what they need to get it. What this allows teams to do is hone in on what it is they’re developing and helps to keep users at the heart of your design and development efforts.

A great way to go about developing and refining your user stories is to meet with Product Managers before each sprint and double check that there’s a shared vision between your PM, UX, UI and design teams.

Tip 2: Define Necessary KPIs and How to Get Them

To use an example user story Joseph described in his post, a Doctor in New York may need to electronically send prescriptions to out of state pharmacies. With this user story in hand, you should already be thinking about what key deliverables you’re after and what the best way would be to achieve them.

This might require different kinds of usability studies combined with questions at key points in the study. For example, you might ask participants to complete a task such as finding commonly sought after information or to register a new account. You might ask users questions before, during or after the task and gather attitudinal data or demographic data along with usability based metrics.

Ideally, you want to be able to combine study types, tasks and questions to gather insightful KPIs and data that inform your next sprint and further resolve the need presented in the user story.

Tip 3: Don’t Recruit During the Sprint

As we already mentioned, time is the enemy during an agile UX sprint and recruiting is arguably one of the most time intensive endeavors required to run a study. This is why successful agile teams recruit their participants before the sprint so that on Day 1 you’re tracking results, and not scrambling to meet sample size or demographic requirements.

Going back to our example, doctors probably don’t have the same time available for them to browse a website that, say, a marketer or a chef might. This is why for best results you (obviously) want to test with actual customers, or at the very least your target audience. Try reaching out to your customers via email or through a live site intercept and ask them if they’d be willing to participate. You can also work with panel vendors to help you recruit your target demographic.

It also doesn’t hurt to have more participants at the ready than you may actually need, just in case you need to scale your research.

Conclusion

And there you have it, three tips to help you prepare for a successful agile UX sprint. Just like sprinting in real life, if you bolt out the door and make a mad dash without stretching or preparing, you’re likely going to stop before you reach your goal.

So treat great UX like you would a marathon, and start preparing before you hit the pavement.