UX design
February 2, 2017 Mainframe Agility

Delightful UX and Agile Design—for the Mainframe?

In today’s ultra-competitive, digital economy, faster time to market and a delightful user experience (UX) are game-changers–and they are necessary to survive. To meet the accelerating needs of the business, development organizations are rewiring their DNA, splicing in Agile and DevOps to replace Waterfall and bimodal IT. What does an Agile cadence mean for UX designers? How does that affect mainframe development teams? We at Compuware pondered these same questions when we underwent our transformation to Agile and settled on an approach that has served us well.

Delightful UX: A Differentiator for Mainframes too

What makes a delightful UX? Truly delightful software is functional, reliable, usable and, last but not least, pleasing to use. But, when we think of mainframes, “delightful UX” may not be the first phrase that comes to mind. We often think of the outdated mainframe “green screen,” character-based UIs. There are several mainframe character-based UIs that exist today, but more often than not, mainframes serve as the system of record rather than a system of engagement, e.g. web and mobile.

Agile user's design needs

Does this mean that mainframes are not involved in delivering a delightful UX? On the contrary. Mainframes’ strengths include reliability, availability, serviceability, security and scaling. They must deliver on these strengths; otherwise, even award-winning web and mobile UI designs won’t mean squat to end users. They simply won’t use it. Additionally, a symbiotic relationship with interfacing development teams is essential, i.e. a similar cadence, understanding the design, responding to change, etc.

Going with Agile Design

As IT organizations progress down the Agile path, the bulk of education and shared knowledge is centered around the functions of product owner, scrum master and development team. An area that is typically not covered in depth is design. This is somewhat understandable, since most Agile frameworks, by nature, are minimally prescriptive. But, traditional design methods do need to change to keep pace with the cadence established by Agile teams. We must say “good riddance” to the days of creating monolithic, magnum opus design documents that are outdated shortly after being approved. These old methods can pack their suitcases and board the Waterfall Express to Yesteryear.

build measure learn Agile UX

Compuware’s Agile approach to design is based on Lean UX and Alan Cooper’s method of designing for
personas
. Lean UX eliminates waste by having designers do the least amount of work necessary to measure the success of the user experience. As a designer, creating bite-sized artifacts, e.g. prototypes, is much more effective. We quickly learn whether our ideas solve problems for our intended audience (personas). We then repeat this process until we have learned enough to either start building a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or to pivot in a different direction. This iterative approach can be described in three steps: build, measure and learn. This is Agile design.

Agile design doesn’t stop when development begins. That’s a Waterfall mindset. We continue to build, measure and learn during development. At Compuware, Agile teams show their work during sprint reviews every two weeks. This gives UX designers, customers and other stakeholders the opportunity to provide valuable feedback on the usability of the product. Usability problems, technical obstacles and new and better ideas spring up, and because we develop and design in an Agile and collaborative way, we have the opportunity to make changes towards a delightful user experience.

There’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it.

– Steve Jobs

Continuous Feedback Is Essential

Compuware customer engagement during discovery (vetting ideas), design (prototype reviews) and development (sprint demos) has been invaluable. Whether the feedback is positive or critical, it’s extremely useful in making decisions to tweak, pivot or forge ahead.

Here is a tweet from one of our customers, Stuart Ashby, following a recent prototype review:

stuart ashby compuware customer

Agile UX  design is never-ending. There is always something to learn, build, and measure. I can’t thank our customers enough for engaging in this continuous process. In an upcoming post, I’ll cover the details of what that process entails and the benefits that emerge from it. Cheers to delightful UX!

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Chris Malin

Chris Malin is a UX designer at Compuware. He has worked for over 20 years developing and designing software for mainframe developers. He aims to help Compuware deliver software that is simple, elegant and delightful to use.

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