Designers are vital to the success of a product, as they’re responsible for creating seamless and engaging user experiences. However, in today’s fast-paced software development landscape, some designers might be pushing Agile best practices to their limits. This opinion may be controversial, but it is essential to examine how these deviations impact the Agile methodology’s effectiveness and how designers can realign themselves with best practices while maintaining a design-led approach.

It’s important to note that the opinions expressed in this article are solely my own! I haven’t come from a design background; my professional journey began in operations teams, where I focused on automating deployments for developers during the early days of DevSecOps. I also appreciate that I have generalised ‘designers’ as if they all do the same thing, which is far from the truth! I believe my perspective has allowed me to observe and analyse the Agile process from a unique vantage point and is still worth sharing!

The Design-led Approach

A design-led approach to software development is undoubtedly a positive force in the industry. It puts the customer experience front and centre, ensuring that products are functional and enjoyable to use. To advocate for anything different in the modern world would be outright silly! Instead, I’m promoting the idea that design-led approaches should still adhere to the core principles of Agile.

My take on this is that while focusing on the customer experience is paramount, it’s essential to strike a balance with what’s physically achievable, given the resources at hand. After all, even the most beautiful designs are of little value if the development team can’t bring them to life.

Image credit: Combine Lean Startup & Agile with a design-led approach | Reduce business risk (

The Importance of Designers in a Project

Designers play a critical role in shaping the direction of a project and influencing even entire company cultures. By being customer experience advocates, it’s easy to see how they become cultural champions for the whole team. If your applications/solutions are hard to navigate, it’s usually a sign that your culture is also hard to navigate. Good designers can inspire and motivate others to prioritise user and colleagues’ needs, fostering a more collaborative and customer-centric environment. I have even seen some fantastic designers have this influence and impact on even some of the dirtiest of data-ELT/ETL projects, where it was thought taking almost all data and dumping it somewhere else was the right thing to do… In one particular situation, it only took one designer to stop a very early planning meeting to ask, “Why are we doing this” and the project immediately changed from what would have been no doubt a failure to saving that customer millions of dollars.

So coming back to designers and Agile, this is not about stifling the kind of thinking above. If anything, it’s about doing more of that but doing it in a way that isn’t pushing Agile best practices to their limits. Like nobody wants the designer to be doing that in the 11th hour when everything has been built, acceptance criteria have been met, and the customer is happy to spend that money because it’s a small percentage of their annual budget! It’s about tact and what Agile best practices are meant to protect you from; resource/people wastage!  

The Role of Designers in Agile

I believe designers can still maintain a design-led approach while adhering to Agile principles by reaffirming the following four rules:

  1. Engage developers and operations personnel early in the design process, ensuring that technical input is given equal weight to design considerations.
  2. Establish clear acceptance criteria and definitions of done so that all team members understand project goals and expectations.
  3. Encourage open communication and collaboration between design, development, and operations teams to foster a shared understanding of project goals and requirements.
  4. Validate that design decisions align with technical requirements, user needs, and project constraints to ensure a cohesive and successful product.


The designer’s role in shaping user experiences and company culture is undeniable. However, pushing Agile best practices to their limits can lead to inefficiencies and miscommunication. By adhering to the core principles of Agile while maintaining a design-led approach, designers can create products that meet users’ needs and work harmoniously within the constraints of the development process. Designers should embrace their role as cultural champions for the entire team, ensuring that customer experience remains a priority without sacrificing the effectiveness of Agile methodologies.

I’d be interested if anyone has a differing view on this?! In Agile, after all, there usually always is! 😊

By Trent Steenholdt

I have developed an in-depth skill set for Microsoft technologies throughout my IT career, and I enjoy sharing my experiences through writing and sharing my story. My personal blog is an opportunity for me to discuss IT and other topics that I find enjoyable. I hope that my experiences and knowledge will be of assistance to others who are interested in these subjects.