If you’re a designer that’s never really worked in the software arena, then the term ‘agile’ might seem a little weird to you. It’s certainly a phrase that gets bandied about a lot when it comes to recruitment, so what the heck does it mean?
Agile was a concept that was invented back in 2001 by a group of software developers who decided that wanted an easier way of working. They came up with twelve principles and created a manifesto – a set of rules that define a new process for working that makes it easier on everyone.
Typically, with an agile methodology, you work in a series of ‘sprints’, an iterative incremental series of cycles where you discover, design, develop, and test. Within the agile idea, there are more specific approaches, such as the scrum.
This is opposed to the waterfall method which is a more traditional way of doing things. The waterfall method is where things are done incrementally and each stage is clearly defined, leaving much less room for innovation and creativity.
Agile means that the final product can make it to market faster through being collaborative with your team. Agile methodology needs incremental investments from all those involved. However, it can be misunderstood and can make stakeholders nervous due to its flexible, messier nature.
How does Agile Work?
The Product Backlog
In a product backlog, you have all the features that the final product needs listed. They are related to benefits for users. Each feature gets placed on an index card and, using personas, is semantically structured in a uniform way, e.g. ‘As Geoff, I can… This means I can…’.
Each card is given an estimate of how long it will take. This is just a guess; the first sprint will identify this more specifically. Then the feature card is given a size, XL, L, M, S, and a number of sizes will be added to each sprint.
There are also other buckets other than product backlog, such as current sprint, in review, blocked, etc. These go on a Kanban, which is ‘signboard’ in Japanese, to give people a visual reference to the big picture. This can be on the wall, or done using Trello, etc.
Daily Scrum Meeting
The daily scrum is a daily meeting where everyone chats about where they are and what they’ve doing. It helps set the direction of the day.
Potential Shippable Product Increment
Each sprint leads to a shippable increment, one step closer to the final goal. It’s in theory quite hard to achieve, but with a good team, it’s more than manageable.
Agile is a great framework to work within when creating websites, as it helps to keep everyone appraised and up to date with where everyone else is at in a project – particularly useful when there are so many parts to building a site. It can be helpful whether you work in a large company or just on your personal projects through constant examination of what needs doing and what can be improved.