Iterative design is one of the most effective ways to build software. It’s a design methodology that is particularly popular among UX designers. This is because incremental improvements are the backbone of iterative design. Enhancements to the product’s usability, accessibility, and level of enjoyment experienced by the user are made throughout the design phase, with user feedback typically helping shape those enhancements with each iteration. When done in sprints, software design iterations are made much more agile.
With agility being a major asset among startups, let’s take a closer look at how iterative sprints can enhance the design process.
What is Iterative Design?
Iterative design is a cyclical process for creating software, websites, and applications in which the product is designed in several small stages and a tangible result is achieved at the end of each stage. At this point, the design team and/or client will seek out feedback by having others test the features out. The feedback received will be used to shape the subsequent iterative stage.
We can use an example of a geo-social networking app to get a better idea. Let’s say a client hires a software design agency to build an app that allows users to share promotions and sales that are running at local small businesses. By creating a crowd-sourced, up-to-date, centralized listing of current promotions, nearby users are more likely to visit a small business that they’ve never even heard of before. In one iteration, the design team may decide to create filters and categories, allowing users to only view sales that are expiring soon, or to only view promotions belonging to restaurants. At the conclusion of the iteration, the filters and categories tools will be fully functional. At this point, the client will test the product out, and have others test it out as well in order to present the design team with helpful feedback.
Executing on Feedback
Gathering feedback is a core component of iterative design. Expanding on the example above, once the iteration is complete and the design team has gathered enough reactions and comments, the team will then plan the next iteration out. Perhaps, those who tested the features added after the most recent iteration, find that they enjoy the filter tools but would like to see businesses assigned a color based on their category. For instance, gyms will appear green on the map, while restaurants will appear purple. If the client and design team decide that the criticism is valid and executing on that feedback will enhance the user experience, then the design team will incorporate those fixes in the next iteration.
What are Sprints?
Like the name suggests, sprints are all about speed. Sprints are a type of iteration that typically last 5-15 days. They are popular among startups because they reduce time-to-MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and increases agility. At the conclusion of each sprint iteration, a tangible and functional product or result is delivered.
For sprints to be effective, the design team (or ‘sprint team’) should be made up of experts that can each contribute something unique to the sprint. For instance, a sprint team may include a project manager, two designers, an engineer, a copywriter, and a QA expert. This way, everyone can focus on their specialty, making the entire team more agile.
It’s not always possible to implement every suggestion made, however. Some suggestions won’t be feasible, some will be too costly to incorporate, and others may not enhance the user experience at all. That’s why it’s important that the client and design team carefully assess the feedback, and determine if there’s value in implementing it. With time posing a restriction – most clients want the app built within 4-6 months – and budgets needing to be adhered to, it isn’t always feasible to make every little change suggested. Therefore, the client and design team are encouraged to prioritize changes and only execute those that truly add value.
Here are some questions the client and design team should ask themselves when deciding on which changes to prioritize:
- What percentage of users will benefit from this change?
- Will the change bring in additional revenue?
- Is it possible that some users may benefit while others will be negatively affected?
- Does the change enhance the usability, accessibility or level of enjoyment?
- How long will the change take to implement?
- What resources are needed?
- How much will it cost?
Running through these questions will give the client and design team a clearer idea of which changes should be implemented in the next iteration, and which can be put aside.
When agility is crucial to your business, iterating through sprints is your solution. You’ll reduce the time it takes to test out functionality, find it easier to stay on budget, and go to market faster.
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