Agile is the buzzword of the moment. It seems odd that so many large organisations are embracing this web methodology without addressing their organizational structure. To be agile after all requires one to be light weight, nimble and free to move quickly. The term is ironic when so many web teams are weighed down by product managers, brand guardians, marketing teams and business owners. All are absolutely necessary but can hinder effective web development if a confused process is followed.
A user centred approach is also a necessity but can be felt as something that gets in the way. ‘Agile’ wants to produce software that a user values, can interact with and use with maximum efficiency. UCD is concerned with a product that the user wants, even before design and build, and it ensures the user moulds the product whilst it is created.
Personally I feel that Agile often misses a trick, it is not a complete process when UCD is not represented during the development sprints. In other words, if a professional with the user or customer in mind is not present at key stages the project will inherit failings.
I do feel that the principle of Agile/Scrum is a sensible solution, the Beta push can not be denied as a cost-effective and impressively quick way to get your product to market. However, if proper user research has not been conducted to verify the purpose of the product, who it is for, how it should work, then it will not fulfil its potential. Only public refinement will occur in the ‘live’ environment. It may take a year before several sprints are complete to revisit a problem noted in a snag list as long as it is complex.
Real, considered, user data through user interviews, persona creation and prototype testing before build will always result in a better product.