Navigating the Design Process in an Agile Environment

How do you integrate the traditional design process into the highly structured world of Agile Development? Designers often have a hard time with agile, pointing out that the creative process is not linear—you can’t schedule a moment of creative inspiration.

We at Under Armour Connected Fitness have worked to solve this problem by creating a design process called Fluid, which is a combination of waterfall and Agile methodologies. The idea is to let the task define the process, not the other way around.

Fluid has three primary workstreams:

1. Agile

For small tasks that are easy to estimate, (e.g. “As a user, I want the ability to delete a workout entry.”) we follow a more traditional Agile process:

  1. Designer is tasked during sprint planning
  2. Designer creates concepts and reviews internally
  3. Designer presents to product team
  4. Revisions/approval given
  5. Designer documents UX/UI and preps for the development team

The cycle is completed within the sprint.

Example of UX flow produced in agile workstream

2. BDUF (Big Design Up Front)

We are often faced with more complex challenges that cannot be shoehorned into the Agile model (e.g. Define the Under Armour Connected Fitness story around heart rate.).

For these projects, we step away from Agile and conduct a more traditional design process. BDUF (Big Design Up Front) is a waterfall methodology whereby the design team completes their process before development begins. Working backward from the launch date, we create a timeline that allows for research, iteration, prototyping, testing, and feedback. In some cases, that timeline may be several months.

Example of heart rate zones feature produced in BDUF workstream

3. DLS (Design Language System)

To accommodate an aggressive launch schedule earlier this year, our design and engineering phases occurred simultaneously, leaving us with “design debt”. While we had an initial design framework in place, there are a number of patterns in our product that we have improved since our launch.

Our mission as a product is to affect positive behavior change in our users. The keys to behavior change are consistency and repetition. A comprehensive DLS provides this structure, reinforces our brand voice, and helps UA Record establish a relationship of trust with our users.

Over the past several months we have been working to define our design principles and document our visual design style guide. The next phase of this project will be working with our development teams to create a framework for implementing our DLS and paying down our design debt. We envision a library of UI frameworks and code snippets, which, once implemented, will save us significant developer hours, ensure design consistency, provide our users with consistent visual cues, and help us achieve the Under Armour “best in class” experience for which we strive.

Example of visual design style guide

Our Fluid process model allows our team to be flexible and effective across a wide range of project types. By not adhering to a one-size-fits-all process model, we are able to create a more productive and efficient design environment. We hope this gives you a bit of insight into our process, and that it might give your teams some ideas about how to create effective design environments within a larger product team.

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