Harnessing Agile to Build Great Designs

Startup + Agile + Design

Agile should mean that we’re making quality products, right? Similar to the user centered design process, agile promotes continual iteration and learning from people who use your product. Why is it often so challenging for a product organization (startup or not) to balance the inherent need for speed against the quality that all designers strive for?

In the beginning… Iteration 1

As a startup, we need to move fast. We launched our v1 product about a year ago and are on 2-week sprint cycles. With our 3-pillar approach, we’ve been continually revising the ways that we work. Initially for every project, design had to start first. Design had to be 1–2 sprints ahead of development. While we’ve done away from the need to wireframe, we still had a heavy process with design ideation and conceptual exploration for every feature. This worked OK for a quarter or so, but we realized that design was making things too slow. We were holding up the rapid rocket ship process of needing to launch fast and launch early because we were too hung up on the quality of our designs.

Go faster… Iteration 2

So we changed, we adapted and made our process leaner while still maintaining that the product quality was important. We are a company that values the overall product experience, especially to make the product experience of data more simple and more easily understood by a non-technical audience. We looked across our product and weighted the different areas of the product into three buckets:
1. Minimal. Simple features with existing well-established patterns. For example: an administrator screen to manage user permissions.
2. Functional. Complex feature that needs to be well thought through and on parity with competitors. For example: a way to combine two datasets into one.
3. Awesome. Product differentiators that we will hang our hat on and will be a primary reason for a customer to buy our product. For example: a unique interaction model that gives suggestions to non-technical users for how to prepare their data.

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Continue to learn… Iteration 3 and beyond

Who knows where we go next? We’re still exploring the end of our second iteration with retrospectives to see how we can adapt the process. Some things we’re interested in exploring more are:

  • How do we make sure we’re solving the right problems?

Written by

Leadership coach & champion of difficult people; designer of human experiences; ex-Facebook; surfer, traveller, mom; tuttitaygerly.com

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