Thursday, April 23, 2009

Designing it up front, and throughout

I recently read a blog entry by Sara Summers, that really got me thinking. Thanks Sara!

I have been working in Agile projects for a few years now. I have come to find that part of my role as a designer, within the process, is to constantly explore and redefine exactly how to get the most out of the iterative, organic nature of the process and still make the time to get a kick-ass design in place.

my Twitter convo with Sara:
@ssummers I think most designers have a tuff time w/ many Agile principals. It is a Dev focused process after all.

@jason_goodwin Agreed. It can work if oxygen is supplied to design upfront.

I thought this was very well put, indeed. And it begs the question; How much design and how far up front?

As designers, we feel we need to have a complete view of the entire experience before the building can begin. One of the things I like the most about designing in an Agile environment is not knowing exactly what I 'should' be doing and going with the flow. The down side of this is finding the best way to inject the stuff you learn during each iteration back into the overall experience. I have some ideas about this, but that's a different show...

I am also not a fan of reading/writing huge documents. I like communicating ideas visually and Agile not only allows me to do that, it forces me to. I have found that most of the other people on the project would rather look at at picture of what it is we want to build vs. reading about it.

Something Sara takes issue with is the notion that designers should have to write code. I write tons of code, for a designer. So much that I consider myself a pretty decent UI developer. It's my feeling that if you are a designer who wants to learn some code, or wants to expand on what they know already, Agile is great for that. You get to work side-by-side with developers and QA folks and is a great way to get better, faster. On the flip side, if you don't want to write code, you get to teach some developers a thing or two about design (I have yet to work with one who didn't want to learn). I see it as a win-win.

Please look at Sara's site it's quite good.