Problem Solving with agile UX – Part 2

6 up 1 up exercise

6 up 1 up exercise

In Part 1, I talked about the motivation behind the “Problem Solving with agile UX” session at the recent LAST (Lean, Agile, and Systems Thinking) conference. Here, I’ll describe what happened on the day.

Back in May, Pete Grierson, a User Experience consultant at, agreed to present at a meeting of the Melbourne Agile and Scrum Meetup Group. He’s got solid experience at realestate, and in previous roles with agile UX, so I was pleased that he agreed to present that night.  Here’s my writeup of that event.

Originally, one of the options for that meetup, was to have a workshop section. However, the number of people, the size of the venue, and time limitations, meant that it wasn’t practical to do this. Instead, I decided to team up with Pete at LAST conference, and it was great to have a full house for our session.

You can see Pete’s slides used to support the workshop, in the Slideshare deck, below. As I wanted to avoid “death by Powerpoint”, at all costs, most of the time was spent doing a series of exercises, rather than dwelling on the slides.

We also had a video camera setup in the room, and if the video turns out any good, I’ll link to it here.

The session and the exercises had the goals of:

  • demonstrating how UX practices can increase shared understanding by supporting user stories and user story backlogs.
  • showing that UX can be a valuable weapon in your armoury; helping a team build something that is really useful, and valuable to a customer.
  • demonstrating that it’s most valuable to have the whole team involved in UX style activities, in order to collect latent knowledge about the issues, goals, and possible solutions. It’s not just the job of a UX person, all team members (product owners, business analysts, developers, testers), can and should be involved.
  • Showing that it need not take huge amounts of time to include UX practices in agile projects.
One thing I didn’t mention specifically is that UX techniques work great with Story Mapping as promoted in the work of Jeff Patton. My fellow conference co-organizeer, Craig, did a session on story mapping, earlier in the morning. I’ve also written about story mapping, on this site.

Minimum Badass User

Pete’s fond of Kathy Sierra’s “Minimum Badass User” concept (Slide 6), and he’s spot on in aligning this with my quest for easier to use cinema listings. In a nutshell, the MBU concept is about making your user an advocate for your service/product/company by making them feel “awesome”, by making your service/product/company “awesome”, by taking into account their needs as a high priority, in the process making them into experts among their peers.

Update – Here’s an example about the Road ID company, that I think illustrates the MBU idea.

UX practices

So what UX stuff can we employ to help understand the needs of our users?  These include SWOT analyses, Context mapping, users/personas, dot voting, prototype sketching, and guerilla user testing, amongst others. (See Slides 9-13), and we talked a little about these.

The good stuff

We then got down to the good stuff. We had 2 personas, that were very roughly based on Pete and myself (slides 14-15), as well as my favourite cinema’s, not vey optimal website. We split into small teams, and did the following four activities:

Exercise 1 – Issues and goals

Based upon the explanation of the “problems” and the personas that were supplied, the teams listed Goals and Issues for one of the personas. In the photo above, it’s for Pete.

Exercise 2 – User stories

Some users stories were then written off the back of the first exercise. I assume for now, that like the participants of the session, you’re pretty familiar with the concept of user stories. The only thing I will say here is, that these techniques are good for the “As a…”, and “I want…” parts of a user story, but are also very good for elaborating on the (often neglected)  “So That…” part of a user story.

Exercise 3 – 6 up prototype sketching

The 6-up, 1-up sketching template was popularised by Adaptive Path (I think), and advocated by Leah Buley on her Ugleah blog. The idea is to sketch 6 different solutions for a problem/user story, trying to come up with different approaches. In the photo, it looks like the sketches are of a smartphone app’s screening times page.

Exercise 4 – 1 up  prototype sketching

The final exercise was to select one of the concepts and do a 1-up sketch, going into more detail. The groups then discussed each team member’s 1-up concept.

The photo is one of my favourite concepts that came out of the exercises. It’s a “Random” movie generator, based upon how the film goer is feeling, who they are with, and whether they are hungry and/or thirsty.

Further reading

There are some links in the slide deck, but I’ve pulled out a few key ones, and added a few of my own.


From my point of view, the session went well. There was a good turnout, and some enthusiastic sketching going on. The discussions that I eavesdropped on were lively, and thoughtful.

I think the fact that I organised the conference, and also that Pete had the flu leading up to the day, reduced the time we had preparing, and improvements could be made for the next time we run this session. However, I hope you got something out of it. If you were there, how was it for you?

If you weren’t there, but have comments or thoughts, then let’s discuss it in the comments!

Photo Gallery


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