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Coming from Agile2016: A guide to software design thinking

With Agile, you can deliver products faster, but are they anything people actually want? Expert Kupe Kupersmith explains how to put the customer into the Agile process.

Ahead of Agile2016, SearchSoftwareQuality editor Valerie Silverthorne had a chance to talk with Kupe Kupersmith,...

president of B2T Training in Atlanta, who will be giving a talk on "Critically Thinking Your Design DNA." Here's what to look forward to and an explanation of what Kupersmith calls software design thinking:

What are Agile teams doing wrong when it comes to design?

Kupe Kupersmith: The major piece when it comes to Agile is too many teams that are doing so much better. The software teams have bought in to the true Agile mindset better and are getting things done faster, but do people care about what they're making? No one really has the answer to the real problem. We create user stories, and we're churning things out and doing sprints and iterations, but customers aren't totally happy yet. So, this talk is about ways to think about how to quickly get on the same page about the real problems. By including a good team and collaborative focus, we can get to the right problem and then be able to kick butt in the sprint cycles. But we need the right anchor to make the decisions.

Is this about user experience (UX)?

Kupersmith: This is a little different. It dovetails with UX, but it comes before that. Before you're setting up the UX, you need to get down to the nitty-gritty. We want to go into creating UX knowing that we're making something that the user needs and wants. That software design thinking has to come first. We need to know what the user needs and wants.

So, it has to start with the customer?

Kupersmith: In my opinion, and I could be wrong, but the end game is customer experience. It's the overarching umbrella, and it's what CEOs care about. What it comes down to is loyalty. They want to feel good and have a great customer experience. To help make that happen, we need to focus on software design thinking and UX. If you can do those two in combination, it works. By focusing on customers and what will really work with them and their journey, you can map out the UX when you get down to the actual product. Customer experience is the umbrella and design thinking is the user experience you deliver, so how the two come together is through design thinking upfront. The mindset is making sure there is prototyping of high-level and low-fidelity stuff, because the user experience is really down to the details. Part of it is back to what customers really need versus how to build an awesome experience. That's the UX. You can have a great website that's easy to use, but if nobody uses it, then that's a problem.

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What tricks do you use to keep the customer in mind while designing?
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As with most things in IT, the key is in keeping the feedback loops short and communicate, communicate, communicate throughout the development process.
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I agree totally with the feedback. You don't want to head down a wrong path and have to waste resources doing it over. Keep those involved to those necessary and if you want to go one step further, have them sign off on design phases. I hate open ended projects where the spec keep changing.
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Though it may be explained in requirement specifications clearly it is good to present the look and feel with a prototype so that Users can exactly visualize early of what to expect.
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I always let user know this is not my design, it is theirs. I want them to have the ownership. Then I ask them two questions:

1.How does the process work today.

2: Tell me how you would like it to work. Keep in mind that this is your design, so you have NO RESTRICTIONS. You can have it anyway you want. Forget everything people have told you about what can and cannot be done by the computer.

Then when they answer #2, I ask more questions; like, "wouldn't it be great if it could do xxx also?  What do you do with the results?

During any conversation, if they start telling me "HOW"  to do it, I tell them, that is my job. My goal is to make the process as automated and flexible as possible.

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There are tricks like Personas that can be used by designers, programmers, and testers alike. Also: if you want to keep something in mind - keep it close. Visualize.

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Agile alone won’t help you deliver solutions that the users want. That takes interaction (which agile fosters) and working with the user to determine what they need and want.
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@Mcorum - Exactly my point!  
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