DES 198: Agile Product Design

UC Davis Design: Summer Session 2, 2012

Learning Objectives & Registration Information

The learning objective of this course is to give students an introduction to the methods and tools used when designing software products within an agile design/development process (most commonly used by web and mobile software startups). Through their experience in this course, students will better understand the role of a designer in an early stage software company and will be better prepared to enter the field of software application design as practicing designer.

CRN: 73623

Course Dates: August 6th-September 14th, 2012

Project-based Curriculum

The hands-on component of the course will be structured as a continuous project that students will work on from beginning to end, with deliverables and checkpoints each week. Each student will be required to design a software application (web or mobile) from concept to a prototype validated with the application’s target audience. This process will not require software programming expertise but will require user research, experimentation and validation of concepts, and continual prototyping.

Required Reading Includes Excerpts From:

Topics Covered

  • Introduction to Agile Methodologies & Processes: Early stage software companies typically structure their development process around one of several widely used agile methodologies (examples include SCRUM, Extreme Programming, and Kanban). In order to work effectively at such companies, designers need to understand the basics of these methodologies and how they relate to the design process.
  • User Research Methods for Agile Development: Two of the key tenants of agile development are rapid iteration and continual validation of product/market fit, which basically means trying to answer the question: “Do real people want to use what I’m creating?” before spending weeks or months creating a real product. By learning user research methods used in agile development, students will understand how they can quickly and easily validate their concepts early in the design process.
  • Rapid Prototyping Techniques: In the last few years, tools have become available that allow non-programmers to create interactive prototypes of visual designs. By learning to use these tools, designer will be able to increase further validate their concepts without prior to creating design specifications for a programming team.
  • Data-driven Product Design Methods and Tools: In addition to qualitative methods that have been a part of more traditional design processes, agile development emphasizes the use of qualitative metrics to gauge user response to software design. Students will gain and understanding of the tools commonly used to accomplish this and how quantitative information can aid their visual design skills.
  • Project Management & Design Documentation for Agile Teams: Early stage software companies do not typically employ dedicated project managers. Designers working in this environment need to understand how a project team of a designer and one or more software engineers can collaborate effectively to deliver a high quality product. Developing skills in this area can enable designers to play the role of product manager, another key position in technology companies.

About The Instructor

Alan Wells is a designer and founder of Glyder ( Prior to founding Glyder, he worked in product management and design roles at several successful startups: Affinity Labs (acquired by Monster), Zynga (pending IPO), and Nextive (acquired by Globant).