A quick guide to Scrum UX

If you’re struggling to incorporate UX into the development process or are looking for an agile process which can incorporate UX, Scrum may be the answer.

Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development methodology for managing product development.

Many organisations are still heavily focused on feature development, the consequence of which can be giving time for designers to be holistic and look at the bigger picture of the user experience.

Don’t rely on Sprint Zero

Many organisations have attempted to use sprint 0 as a way to get ahead of the development team, acting as a preliminary sprint dedicated to upfront UX tasks. The issue with this approach however is the allocation of time often only allows designers to address initial design concerns.

One-time event which takes place at the start of the process, which is neither iterative nor agile.

Sprint Zero may not be enough to complete everything the design team needs before the development sprints are scheduled to begin.

Experience should be an ongoing concern throughout the development process.

Theoretically, any sprint can be used to address experience issues however this involves communicating this to the Team and put’s pressure on the design team not to hold up the traditional view of a sprints being exclusive to development.

Making short-term design decisions based on limited information and understanding at the start of the project could end up creating wasted time later in the project if an experience issue is raised.

A UX Spike, is a sprint dedicated to exploration and research to explore an upcoming story and ensure the best experience is developed.

The UX Spike maintained the structure of Scrum, utilising the Product Owner, the UX Spike required the addition of a UX Owner who is jointly responsible for the done-ness of the backlog item along with the Product Owner.

A UX Spike can take place at any time in the project, with as many UX Spikes as needed.

A consideration when using a UX Spike is, it will temporarily change the nature of the Scrum Team.

How does a UX Spike Impact Developers and Backlog?

Any story within the product backlog which is impacted by the Design Spike should not be worked on until the UX Owner is satisfied the UX work is done. 
Members of the development team who can move forward with work which is not impacted by the UX decision may do so, those whose work is impacted by the UX Spike can participate in the creation of UX artifacts in the Spike.
It’s important for the development team not to work on impacted stories as this will likely lead to wasted effort.

The UX team selects stories from the product backlog and forms a UX Spike, with the aim of trying to complete as many stories as possible within the sprint. The duration of a UX Spike is not generally time-boxed, but the team should aim to complete the spike as soon as possible.

Work completed within the UX Spike should be actionable, usually in the form of wireframes, mock-ups, prototypes and research.

A UX Spike retains the Scum milestones, product backlog grooming, effort estimates, sprint planning, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives.

The UX Spike gives the UX team the opportunity to ask questions at a story level and breakout into design-centric thinking at any time for the purpose of supporting the minimisation of waste.

Within a large organisation the UX Spike also allows senior UX stakeholders to lend expertise and guidance on important design solutions.

Hopefully this quick guide will help you implement Scrum UX within your organisation.

Written by Clare Brace — Agile Qualified Project Manager and UX Strategist

Award winning digital optimisation & user experience (UX) professional. Specialist in omni-channel retail ecommerce customer experience.


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