UX design: at the heart of agile culture

UX design: at the heart of agile culture

UX design - the discipline of designing and delivering better digital experiences - has come of age. As technology products become more commoditised, the user experience (UX) has become a competitive differentiator and IT decision-makers need to ensure that design is at the centre of their concerns. The adoption of agile and DevOps practices offers great opportunities, provided that the UX is not neglected as it is the voice of the user, explains Laurent Untereiner, UX Designer at the DevOps Center of Sogeti Luxembourg.

Design, did you say design?

While there are a multitude of views on UX design, everyone agrees that the purpose of UX design is to design and deliver an optimal user experience: the best possible experience. "There is still a misunderstanding, especially among French speakers, about design, which is considered in the aesthetic sense of the term. But in fact, in English, the word « design » means conception. In this sense, doing UX design means designing the user experience" says Laurent Untereiner.

"Contrary to certain preconceived ideas, the designer, within a development team, is not a graphic designer who puts colour in the applications. His mission is to bring together the expectations of the business and the needs of the users. To do this, he must be involved from the start of the project". In the days of waterfall development, the design of the application was conceived according to the vision of the business and, when the product was delivered to the users, it was too late to change anything, which often slowed down its adoption by the target audience. "But as the IT industry matured, it realised that to make a good product, the user experience had to be taken into account from the start. Early research and testing allows the UX designer to better meet user expectations", he explains.


UX, how mature?

It is therefore essential for an organisation to assess its user experience maturity. "The UX maturity of a company not only has several stages, but it may also vary accross several axis", says Laurent Untereiner. "At Sogeti, we use the model developed by the Nielsen Norman Group. This model has 6 stages and covers processes, design, research, management support and UX longevity. Based on this, we have created a solution that allows our clients to discover, through a set of questions, where they are in terms of UX maturity. We then advise them on the directions they need to take to progress."

The UX maturity of a given organisation is not always homogeneous. For example, there may be a significant difference in the level of maturity between marketing and IT. "In this case", says Laurent Untereiner, "our intervention allows us to align the views within the company. Such a study also allows us to identify sponsors - the most advanced stakeholders in UX - who can support us throughout the projects."


When UX is heROIc (ROI: Return On Investment) 

Taking the user experience into account from the start of a project also means reaping the benefits in terms of development time, resource savings and improved adoption.

"At Sogeti, we put in place, from the start of projects, a battery of indicators that enable us to evaluate the gains made by investments in UX," explains Laurent Untereiner. A common rule of thumb in the industry is that an error, initially a factor of 1 in the design phase, represents a cost of a factor of 10 when it is corrected in the test phase and a factor of 100 when the correction is made after the product is put into production. "The early consideration of UX combined with the agile methodology we apply allows us to contain these costs by a factor of 2 and to divide the development and testing times by the same coefficient. The Return On Investment (ROI) is even more favourable as our approach reduces the risk of building the wrong product and increases user satisfaction. And the ROI of the product is further enhanced by the reduced need for helpdesk and support services after the product has gone live," he adds.


UX and DevOps, the best friends in the world

The DevOps approach and agile development offer many opportunities to improve the consideration of UX design. Both DevOps and UX aim to deliver a better product and bring more value to the end user.

DevOps is about delivering functionality in small batches and strengthening the interaction between the different teams that develop and manage a product. These small batches of features allow UX designers to quickly incorporate user feedback. Continuous collaboration with the development teams reduces (unpleasant) surprises and results in a final UX that better fits the needs of the customers and has fewer compromises in terms of user experience. UX professionals also have a better understanding of technical limitations and application developers can be more involved in the thinking around UX.

"In our DevOps Center, we have integrated UX into the heart of the DevOps chain. The three types of players - developers, operators and UX designers - work together," explains Laurent Untereiner. "After a major effort during the initial phase, which we name "sprint zero", constant attention is paid throughout the cycle in order to guarantee the homogeneity  of the user experience dimension and its alignment with the requirements identified during our interviews with those who will be using the product," he concludes.


Article written by Michaël Renotte for Techsense and translated into english by Sogeti Luxembourg. 


If you'd like to hear more about UX design, please get in touch with:

Laurent Untereiner
Laurent Untereiner
UX Designer, Sogeti Luxembourg's DevOps Center