Wednesday, July 18, 2007

User Centered Design, HCI and Agile Development Compatibility

As I was catching up on some long overdue reading, I noticed a few topics emerge that reminded me of a post I wrote back in December on User-Centered Design and the Agile Development Methodology.

The theme among the articles I've been reading is that the two are more compatible than most people think when it comes to the development of software and web-based applications. The fact that it continues to be discussed tells me that a misunderstanding between human-computer interaction (HCI) professionals and programmers still exist.

I don't know if my voice will rise above the noise that has been created as part of an effort to foster a level of understanding between the professionals in user-centered design, HCI and software & web application development. All I do know is I can add my own personal insight and commentary on this subject and provide you, the reader, a chance to learn more about this subject yourself to draw your own conclusions.

My research on this subject took me to a couple of interesting places with their own unique views on the compatibility of these methodologies. This post from InfoQ discussed some comparisons and differences (mostly) between HCI and Agile. Despite the differences between practices, a strong focus on the end-user was common. Also, a whitepaper at the Journal of Usability Studies discussed how to make user-centered design, HCI (in their case they called it "usability investigations") compatible with Agile. Their solution is to adjust the scope and granularity of the investigation to accommodate Agile development, however, again, the end-user is central to the process and is a common link between the methodologies.

The link user-centered design, HCI and Agile development share is their ability to be flexible. In addition, they all share the understanding that the end-user is crucial to the success of the final product being developed. If you are looking to bridge these methodologies together to create a software or web-based product, look to the Contextual Design methodology. According to the developers of this inquiry methodology, Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt in their book Rapid Contextual Design, Agile and other development methods like XP are very accommodating and flexible enough to achieve the desired results.

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