Lean and Agile UX course

Yesterday I attended this course from Nielsen Norman as part of Usability Week 2017 and the final course in my quest to gain their UX Certification.

The room was set out in a cabaret arrangement unlike all the other courses I went to which were effectively lectures.

Although concepts of Agile and Lean are nothing new to me these training courses have usually been able to explain even the stuff you might know in a way that’s still interesting.

Here are some very basic notes I kept so I can remember it in years to come.

The first thing we did is go round the room and talk about the current state of Agile in our organisations. There were remarkably few people who said they worked in a ‘fully Agile’ way even in organisations with full in house teams,  scrum masters, product owners and all that jazz. Most people seemed to be in the low level or even the pretend Agile category.

Foundations of Agile

We talked through the basics of the Agile manifesto, scrum, using sprints and using Kanban to manage backlog.

NNG have a basic premise that UX isn’t naturally part of Agile teams and that steps need to be taken to ensure it has a voice throughout the process. UX has an emphasis on value for users over shippable software which something like scrum would. To be honest I think this is pretty debatable but I take their point that UX is important.

Agile UX

We then discussed various ways to integrate UX expertise into the Agile process. Most common is for a UX designer to work across multiple projects as a troubleshooter without being a full-fledged team member which would be preferable.

Most of the important information seems to be covered in The State of UX Agile Development article on the NNg website. According to their research an average Agile team size of 10 includes on average two UX professionals.

Then we discussed at what point UX collaborates with the rest of the sprint team – sometimes working ahead of sprints.

Project Planning

There was lots of info on basic Agile planning.

Then there was a lot of story mapping of user stories slides and an exercise some of which was based on these sources:

Product backlog

We did a bit of user story writing:


I will practise creating user stories

SO THAT the ones I create end up making sense

This included looking at vague ones and broad ones which need breaking down into more stories. We also talked about what appropriate UX success criteria might be for user stories and how to manage tasks on the backlog.

Lean UX

Recommended reading list:

We talked about velocity – Amazon claim to deploy every 11 seconds

Velocity culture video

We then watched the paper prototyping video from NNg which was decent.

Getting buy-in

Then we were taken through various ways of getting suits to buy all this stuff.

Top tips for UX success from Agile practitioners

  • Allow time for release planning and story mapping
  • Design ahead of development
  • Cultivate a collaborative culture
  • Think iteration, not perfection
  • Participate in scrum meetings
  • Turn user research into team-driven events
  • Secure strong stakeholder engagement
  • Set explicit roles and responsibilities
  • Host training and onboarding sessions
  • Modify your method until it works

Top 10 Tips for UX Success From Agile Practitioners

They gave us a copy of Effective Agile UX Product Development.

James Mullarkey

I write about the web and digital, mediocre sporting performances and places I've been, for this blog and only this blog.