3 lessons I’ve learned as a designer on an agile team

Emergn - 3 lessons I learned as a designer on an agile team - person using graphics tablet at desk

It’s increasingly common to find designers working in-house, as part of a product development team, and often that means working in an Agile environment. It can be a challenge for a designer, but adapting to this way of working will only help your practice.

When I joined the Agile team I work with today, I was hired for a junior creative role involving graphic design and marketing. As a graduate in Textile design, I was still fairly new to graphics, and far from the world of UX.

So here’s a few of the things I’ve adjusted to on an Agile team, and the invaluable lessons I’ve learned along the way.

You’re not the decision maker. Accept it!

When it comes to the ‘look and feel’ of a product, as a designer, you’re used to making the final decision. Or maybe the decision lies between yourself, the rest of the design team, and the client. On an Agile product development team however, final decisions aren’t made by the designer. They are discussed amongst the whole team. Here’s what you’ll learn – anyone who pushes back against a design, will have a good reason for doing so. You may have the design expertise, but others on the team will have a solid understanding of the requirements, the market or the technical challenges involved.

Reminder: the user knows best

On one occasion, we created a landing page and the team were divided over what feature image we should use. We went back and forth arguing our points, but neither party were budging. So we decided to set up an experiment. I thought, “I’m a designer, I know what image works best, I’ll win!”

The other team won.

When we ran the two images as an experiment, the data showed that the other teams image performed better. It wasn’t that the they knew more. They had a hunch, and the data showed the right answer. As a designer, it’s best to let quick experiments point you to the right results.

There isn’t always time for perfection

You’re probably used to shifting things a few millimetres to the left or dropping the tint of something by 2%, before you will even consider letting a layout go live. Be ready to shake that off. Agile teams like to work incrementally and this means that you work quickly and ship a product before it is ‘perfect’ in your eyes. This is difficult for a designer, but the learning you gain from working in this way, is invaluable. Rather than spending time perfecting a product, we start with a ‘minimum viable product’ and deliver just enough to give the user an idea of the functionality. We go back to it and make improvements based on feedback we get from our real users – the ones who will buy! This way, you save time and resources in shipping something that the user may not even want.

Above all of the points, an Agile development team have to learn to embrace change if they want to build and release the right products. This means you are constantly collaborating and the team are empowered to make decisions. Having everyone actively involved is what makes being part of an Agile team so rewarding.