Last week I was talking to a great project manager at another software agency about approaches to software development, particularly around UI/UX.
We shared project management ideas and best practices we’ve learnt along the way, along with the trials and tribulations of situations that haven’t worked as plan.
One thing that I took away from the discussion, is about reassessing the UI/UX part of Application Lifecycle Management. Should User Interface (UI) design come before or after User Experience (UX) design, or maybe even after some of the base software code has been developed?
I’m aware of arguments for all manner of approaches, but thought I would use this article to analyse them and also discuss the link between these processes more generally.
As a software development agency we tend to design the UX first and then move on to the UI in the initial software phases as a tool to help the client visualise the product and seek feedback from test users.
This has generally worked well, but in ‘Agile’ software development scenarios where the client doesn’t yet know the full list of product requirements and features, there’s a danger that the finished product can look completely different to the initial alpha prototype.
It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does beg the question about whether this cost could have been avoided. I should also point out that the UI/UX should be distinguished as separate parts of the process. I think UX needs to be done prior to development cycle starting, however I agree with the other agency that the UI could be left much later in the software development process.
If we are using an agile approach to software development, the most optimum approach we’ve found, is to follow some simple project processes and rules. The person that plays the role of the ‘Business Analyst’, has a pivotal part in the overall project impact.
This person can be made up of a few people, which in our case is; myself, my project manager, lead developer, UI/UX designer, or even our Digital Marketing Manager. I see it as one of the most crucial parts of a project, because if it’s done efficiently the cogs of the rest of the project will turn smoothly.
The output of this means that the client obtains the most viable product for market, saving lots of design, development, project management and other material costs.
Our Software Scoping Approach:
Business Analyst and UX team extract requirements from customer
The team starts developing the backlog story using Jira, which captures the following inputs for the project management plan, which you could consider as a UX Sprint:
Business Analyst creates functional stories in conjunction with UX
UX creates wireframes in conjunction with Business Analyst
High-level project management plan is created with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
Client signs off requirements
Team grooms the backlog with the wireframe becoming a story requirement
Story goes into sprints
UX design for the story takes place
Development for the story takes place
UI design for the story takes place
QA testing takes place
Story is complete
UA acceptance testing take place
What’s great about this approach is it fits nicely into ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) principles and also maintains the agile software development standards.
What about UI Design?
As I’ve indicated above, the UI design process comes in once the UX and development stories have been created and are usually in development. Initially I thought we were doing something different, but ultimately subconsciously we’ve been incorporating the UI design later down the project process.
Paradoxically, confusion arises when people mistakingly bottle UI/UX together, or maybe even label them together as UI/UX, when in reality it should be UX/UI. The user journey and experience should be agreed before the granular UI is designed.
As the other project manager stated quite rightly:
‘…it’s a lot easier to skin the UI on top of the code, as opposed to the other way around’
My bug bear is a simple one, if you type UX and UI into Google, you’ll probably notice that the vast majority of articles will write it as UI/UX, when in reality UX has to come first.
It would even be inaccurate to write it as UX/UI, because it doesn’t take in account for the software development part of the process….so why don’t we write it as UX/Code/UI?
Well that’s probably because the design team sometimes work together on both the UX and UI process. Nevertheless the greatest thing it’s underlined for me is that the user journey has to come first.
If you would like to work with a passionate web and mobile app development company, who take time to reflect questions like this as part of our continuous process development, then please contact us today for a no-obligation chat about a project you’re interested in developing.
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