UX Design in the Age of DevOps
DevOps is popular among modern IT strategists because it leaves no scope for lapses in the development process. It incorporates a holistic approach to software development by bringing together agile development and continuous iteration from the operations team. By taking into account all the system requirements ranging from the process of incorporating new features to ensuring successful deployment of the features in the real-life business scenario, DevOps promises the highest level of efficiency.
(Infographic source: Circonus)
While the value proposition of the DevOps approach of software development has already become well known to the IT strategists, some processes in the development pipeline like UX design still needs to be oriented with a DevOps environment. DevOps besides improving development efficiency and product performance makes a great contribution in delivering optimum user experience as well. This is why, UX designers need to have a better understanding of the DevOps approach of development, design, iteration, testing, and deployment.
The Impact of Adopting a DevOps Process
We need to begin by explaining the impact of adopting DevOps on the software development process. While everyone, in theory, agrees to the DevOps approach, in practice many product managers simply prefer to avoid brainstorming on key system requirements. Some key system requirements that must be validated by the DevOps approach include installing analytics, checking the dependencies of the system, including documentation, etc. With financial constraints looming large, the temptation to leave aside these system requirements make many product managers shrug off the DevOps approach. This trend is particularly visible with the product managers without a technical background. They seem to focus more on the features that system requirements.
This reluctance of adopting a DevOps approach clearly has its price. In the long run, a software product suffers from poor user acquisition, retention and lack of revenue because of the inherent system weaknesses. Features are considered to be the most important factors to pull users and engage users and as tangible value propositions, they take the priority for non-technical managers in development companies. This is why often new features quickly grab the attention of businesses and are readily evaluated as push factors. On the other hand, the whole focus on features and their immediate benefits completely miss the evaluation from the perspective of the system.
A DevOps approach is all about bringing focus and priority to the system requirements without really undermining the role of features. Instead of de-prioritizing the system requirements for a software product, DevOps actually insists on meeting these requirements first. Actually, features that are included in any software product without taking system requirements into consideration will always end up giving poor user experience. As the positive impact of the DevOps approach, this user experience is given utmost priority rather than unthought-of inclusion of features.
Without meeting system requirements an application prototype that has been taken into production may actually deliver sluggish performance with frequent time-outs and crashes. Without meeting the system-specific requirements like release automation, deployment can be delayed to a great extent. Similarly, without analytics, there will be no internal methods to evaluate the performance from time to time.
By prioritizing system requirements over product features DevOps approach actually helps to enhance user experience and performance optimization.
Making Way for Collaboration
DevOps is a development approach to build software products based on collaborative inputs from different processes within a business organization. Communication and collaboration remain the key aspects to breach the lapses of different business processes and bring inputs within the development pipeline. As design-centric organizations these days deliver better performance by bringing together functions and design into a collaborative process, DevOps for different business can extend this collaboration further by incorporating inputs from the operations team in product development. Design, development, and operations together making a broader collaboration for building product that users find helpful, is the ideal outcome of a DevOps approach.
When it comes to design output, the collaborative approach of DevOps can ensure more innovative and customer-centric product design. From the leadership to the operations executives, everyone working in a DevOps environment can be in sync with the design goal of the project. This will help to bring in different perspectives to product design from within and outside the design team.
Integrating UX into DevOps
The above-mentioned explanation clearly shows how a DevOps approach ensures prioritizing UX and benefits UX development practices. Well, the DevOps approach also requires the UX designers to work in a different way.
Instead of brainstorming the design concept and prototype of the entire product at one go, UX designers now need to work concurrently with the development process. They need to continuously take design decisions at the development progresses. They can start with a core UX guideline and can update them progressively as the development process continues.
Lastly, they also need to talk with the development, QA testing team, and operations team in understandable language to communicate the design decisions.
Let’s have a look at the best UX design practices in a DevOps environment.
- Make a plan for the core UX plan early. The core UX guideline should be in sync with the gross development path.
- The UX design, product development, and engineering, and IT management should be in perfect sync on the UX design decisions.
- UX design should give priority to fulfilling design for one feature before going to the next.
- UX designers should check a visible product backlog frequently to ensure that nothing remains overlooked or unattended.
- The project manager should ensure that the UX designer has participated in all stages of product development, production and deployment. Every output should be validated by the UX designers along with others.
- While following a cord UX guideline, the designer needs to be agile. The UX designer needs to update design concurrently with continuous research on and above the core strategies.
- UX designer in the DevOps environment should be able to integrate and make use of feedback rapidly and churn out updated versions with the issues addressed.
DevOps has emerged as the most promising development environment to extend the design-centric development approach with more spiral collaboration across all processes. Thanks to DevOps UX design is now at the very center-stage of software projects to orient every aspect of development with the end-user experience.
By Atman Rathod