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7 Tips

for Practicing UX

in an Agile Environment

Jonathan Berger, Pivotal Labs, September 2011

The plan:

45 minutes

(20 minute talk + time for discussion)

What it says on the tin:

Jonathan will lead a discussion about various strategies of integrating UX practice and Agile Development, talk about pacing and mock-up techniques, and share his experience with three years of Pivotal-Tracker-oriented Test-Driven Development at Pivotal Labs.

Origin Story

Why am I here?

Why have I spent the last three years doing Pivotal-Tracker-oriented Test-Driven Development at Pivotal Labs?

It started with

I saw what the

Agile process did for Devs

and I thought

Designers can haz?!


I believe that design tasks have similar problems to those which that led to Agile development, and can benefit from similar techniques.

I'll test this hypothesis by sharing some tactics and listening to whether they resonate with this group.

Tips & Techniques & Tactics

& other 'T' words

Tip 1: Designers should

Talk at Stand up

  • Makers are pigs too. Makers talk.
  • Stand-ups should be rigorously high-orthodox.
  • You can have more than 1 stand-up per day.

Tip 2: Use Ubiquitous language

Label mock-ups and assets

Use the same terms for the same things

Tip 3: Pick a story

and Stick with it

It's really effective to develop a default sample story and use it to mock or test or teach.

Stick to your story


Tip 4: Optimize Physical Spaces for Conversation

Foamcore is awesome. Create spaces to create conversation. Externalize.

Mocks on Foamcore

foamcore boards with mocks

Foamcore == Mobile walls!!

foamcore in a client presentation

Tip 5: Humans are narrative creatures

Design for Narrative

  • Real and internally consistent test stories lead to better products.
  • Bring your Personae and User Flows into tests.
  • Make it easy for devs to use that research (post paper copies).

Tip 5: Personas are more memorable

with alliterative names

  • Frank the Farmer
  • Bennie the Butcher
  • Sam the Shopper

Post basic Userflow scripts as test data

userflow script

Tip 5: At first

Design in Adobe Creative Suite

  • Before working software is built,
  • for most IA and User Flows,
  • for novel interactions

Tip 5: Unless you can

Design on a Whiteboard

  • Because that's usually faster
  • And faster's often better
  • And whiteboards are conversationsal

Tip 5: I can't count

That '7 Tips' thing? Total lie!

Tip 9: Maintain

A sustainable pace.


playing pingpong


timeout app

Remember you're a Mammal

flux app

Bonus Tip!

Tip 10: Then,

Design in the Browser

When working software exists and your mocks start falling out of sync

Use Firebug

to manipulate the DOM

and then take screenshots

which can be hacked up

in your favorite raster editor

LIVE DEMO (time permitting)

Who's wants to deface something?

this technique lets you

move FAST

for bonus points

Save the HTML

and check it into version control to work on longer mocks and be able to save them

My Open Questions:

  • What are your tips?


Find me at

jonathanpberger@,, twitter, forrst, flickr, etc...