Sense and sensibility: Agile and UCD

agile-ucd-book

Integrating UCD into Agile software development is a persistent challenge for many reasons, even though it’s generally considered to be desirable. A couple of years ago I was involved in organising a workshop about Agile UCD at NordiCHI 2014 with some great colleagues. The paper presentations at the workshop were so interesting we decided they merited being put together in an edited book, on Integrating User-Centred Design in Agile Development. The result has just been published. It’s a fascinating mix of in-depth research studies, action research studies and theoretical papers. Each paper untangles a different aspect of the Agile UCD conundrum. The introduction gives a detailed overview.

I reckon that anyone who works in an academic Computing department is aware of the clashing world views that can be found between HCI and software engineering. As someone who works in academia I often assume we’re in a bubble and our concerns are not the same as those of others. But this is a case where the academic bubble is a mirror of other working environments. While reading and editing the book chapters I kept finding threads in the narratives that I recognized from my own experience– holism versus reductionism, creativity versus precision, building for experience versus building for stability … and more. What is intriguing is that while these dichotomies are persistent, they are not always what you’d expect. Is it the sense of the software engineer and the sensibility of the designer, or vice versa, or both? Ah, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the perfect exemplars. And it’s difficult to know which one we warm to most.

The best bit about the workshop was meeting some fantastic people and getting to talk to them about their work. At the end of the day I sat with one of the participants over a glass of wine to talk about the workshop, her work, and travelling in Finland. Eighteen months later she came over to the UK to join the Agile Research Network as a Research Associate. A great workshop, and great connections.

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