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Persona driven user stories for Agile UX

Given how long I’ve been thinking about Agile + User Experience, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to start doing writing user stories that are centred on the personas we’ve created for the project. Nonetheless, it’s something I’ve started doing recently and I’ve found it to be really successful. I’m not the only one – Will Sansbury has written about it before and Joe Sokohl spoke about it recently at the Agile 2010 conference.

It’s as simple as it sounds – rather than writing user stories that nominate members of your project team, instead write them nominating the persona they are designed to most benefit.

For example, on the Project Verity backlog I’m working on with the team at Mark Boulton Design we have the occasional ‘as the developer, I want to…’ but the vast majority of our stories lead with ‘as Verity, I want to’, or occasionally ‘as Verity’s boss…’

This is, in theory, a teeny tiny change, but in practice I find it has two big effects.

Firstly, it keeps your personas alive and actively in use – this has always been a big challenge for UX people in agile and non-agile teams alike – here is one big opportunity where agile teams actually seem to have the edge.

Use your personas in your user stories and your personas can’t be left on a shelf to gather dust, instead they effectively become active members of your project team. If the stories don’t make sense with the personas, then either your story or the persona is at fault – the team needs to sort out which is at fault and make the appropriate adjustments. Which leads me to…

Secondly – it’s much harder to write a rubbish user story when it’s grounded in a persona. Let’s face it, there are plenty of user stories in most of our backlogs that are really management feature requests disguised as a user story. Transform your backlog so that the user stories that are supposedly there to help the users are given to a persona and suddenly it becomes much easier to interrogate feature requests against real users.

I can’t tell you how many user stories I’ve ended up throwing out because when I try to write the ‘so that I can…’ part of the user story it becomes impossible to make a compelling case because I have to make it gel with the agreed persona attributes.

I keep thinking – because I haven’t heard of people using this approach very much – that there must be some fatal flaw I’ve not thought of or come across yet… if so, perhaps you know what it is?

Making Agile & UX work together can certainly be tough, but this strikes me as one of those opportunities that Agile offers UXers to actually practice our craft all the more rigorously and visibly in our teams. I think I’ll be doing a lot more of it in the future.

Drupal7 UX – Project Process

As you may have noticed, this is not your typical design project… there are things about it that are pretty unusual, but there are also some pretty standard aspects as well. We thought it might be useful to give you a high level view of the approach we plan to take.

On a project like this, however, a highlevel view is really the only one we *can* give because, in all honesty, we’re not exactly sure what we’ll be doing in 2-3 weeks time let alone 2-3 months time. We have a mud-map though, and this is roughly what it looks like.

We are working with the team at Acquia on this project and they run an Agile shop, so we’re going to be trying to synch into their iterations as best we can.

One of the biggest challenges for User Experience and Design work in an Agile environment is getting the strategy and vision of the design worked through – to that end we are very thankful that our friends at Acquia have been flexible enough to give us a nice big chunk of time which we’re calling ‘Iteration Zero‘ and in this time we are doing a whole load of thinking, and strategising and talking with you to work out what our overall strategy is. This is why we’re asking about audience, and tone of voice and those more ‘abstract’ questions.

By the end of Iteration Zero, which for us is around 14 April, we hope to have an overarching strategy and ‘framework’ for the proposed interface for D7 in the form of some pencil sketches and a sitemap, an agreed experience strategy, audience matrix and tone of voice. We will have tested framework using some low fidelity (paper) prototypes with a range of participants across the spectrum of our audience matrix and we will feel confident that we know what we are doing and where we are headed.

During this time we will be working closely with the Drupal community to understand *how* our framework can best be implemented for release with D7.

The remainder of our time on the project, (which runs until around the end of July) will be spent working through exactly how the strategy is implemented, looking at the very many fine details and issues that will need to be resolved, whilst also testing and iterating the work we have done based on the results of our testing.

How and when can you get involved?

During iteration zero – it is VITAL that we get the foundations of our strategy correct so please engage and continue to engage with us as we work through the strategy, audience and tone issues. This will be mostly in the form of you reviewing what we’ve come up with and providing us with your feedback.

Get involved with the framework design – we’re going to be posting (very soon) some initial sketches that show the direction we’re heading in – we would love to have your feedback on that.

As we did with the d.o redesign project, we’ll be doing a CrowdSourced Wireframe activity that we would invite you to participate in where we’ll be asking you to take a part of the Drupal Admin you think needs work and drawing up a solution (or, if you’ve done it already, why not submit a screencast to ‘Pimp Your Admin’ on our YouTube channel!)

We are also going to re-launch the Crowdsourced Usability Testing for this project – this time with a little more warning and some more structure – so we would invite you to help us test our designs with people around you and contribute to our understanding of what is working and what is not, and help validate our approach. In the coming week I will be releasing a lot more information around this, including some timings, so it would be great to have you on board with this exercise (and it would also make a great exercise for interns, students, people new to usability/UX who want to get some experience doing usability testing).

As the Acquia team start to take designs from us, they will also start releasing a working prototype that you will be able to review and comment on – I’m not sure on timings for that but I’d expect probably mid-late May (I’ll update when I know more).

So as you can see – there will be LOTS of ways for you to contribute all the way through the project, and, don’t let us limit you! If you have ideas we need to see, or other ways you’d like to contribute – please let us know!

Any questions? Comments etc.?

X-Posted from: d7ux.org/project-process/

links for 20 August 2008 – Iteration Zero

links for 30 October 2007 – Making Agile User Centred

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