Hi, I'm Bob Ricca.Head of Product Design at ThreatQuotient.

UX mentor at DesignLab, ex-adjunct at Philadelphia University, ex-UX at AWeber.


3 Amigos: a foolproof exercise for more thought out designs — a UX case study

Case Study Product Design UX

Building products fascinates me.

Everything about it:

  • Validating that you’re solving the right problems
  • Defining the “what” and “how”
  • Working in the trenches with an engineering team
  • The thousands of micro-decisions
  • And most importantly… Seeing someone get value out of something you’ve poured your heart into

There are few things like it.

Working in an agile development environment, I always found it odd when designers don’t care to be part of the scrum team’s daily conversations.

It’s not that these designers are less dedicated, less talented, or less humble. They just feel their time is better spent elsewhere. That’s totally ok.

However, I’d argue that it could be a missed opportunity.

• • •

Does this sound familiar?

A user story gets accepted into a sprint. A few days pass before it’s picked up by the team. A front end developer starts working on his piece while the backend developer is working on hers. Once completed, the story gets passed over to QA. The QA engineer doesn’t want to pass the story because after talking to the UX designer, they expected the interface to behave slightly different. The developers push back because the work being discussed was never outlined in the original ticket. Frustrated, the team decides it’s too late to pivot to another solution and the card is bumped out to the next sprint.

This happens all the time and it’s a shame. It’s really easy to avoid.

• • •

Enter The 3 Amigos

A product owner, software engineer, and a QA engineer walk into a bar…

The 3 Amigos is an exercise born out of automated testing. A product owner, software engineer, and QA engineer sit down at the beginning of each sprint to outline a set of scenarios describing how a feature should work.

Because everyone is involved, the risk for miscommunication is low.

An example:

Let’s pretend we are working on an interface where users can apply a “Score” filter to their search results.

Thanks Darren!

A scenario might look like this:

  • I click on the Score filter and a dropdown appears showing a slider.
  • “1” and “10” are selected by default. The submit button is disabled.
  • I then drag the left slider to “6” making the score 6 to 10.
  • The text input below updates to display “6” and submit button is now active.
  • I click submit and the dropdown closes.
  • My search results are now updated.

A Simple Exercise For Sharper Designs

Start Writing Scenarios

First, instead of 3 amigos, let’s make it 4 amigos.

The UX designer should be the one driving the conversations about interaction design.

Second, why wait for the work to be accepted into a sprint?

Writing out scenarios as I design interfaces has made me a better designer. It’s a quick way to test that the proper UI paradigms are being applied, things are flowing properly, and all states are being considered with minimal overhead.

Scenarios also help identify any specifics I’d like the developers to be aware of:

  • When portions of the page should reload
  • How form elements should act
  • Notifications / visual queues to be used and when

• • •

Effectively communication is at the heart of any successful team and writing scenarios is an easy way to outline design intent. Ever since we’ve introduced them, the amount of stories failing QA during the sprint has been dramatically reduced. The team absolutely loves them. Everyone understands what they need to bring to the table and it promotes healthy conversation and team dynamics.