UX within scrum


I’m wondering what people’s experiences are of UX and UI design within scrum and how the needs of this discipline sit with the needs of building software. I’m fully aware of the absurdity of this question given that UX and UI is as much a part of building software as writing code.

This seems to be a recurring topic amongst product development teams, where UX and design need to see the big picture and plan for a fully featured, long term future, and developers typically are working on very thin (preferably independent) vertical slices of value. Attending to both needs within the typical vehicle of a user story is problematic, so a common solution is to split out design and development work into separate stories, which is clearly an anti pattern. Another common solution is to have designers working a sprint ahead or to specifically do design sprints. This has the result of enforcing a two sprint lead time on value and widens the feedback loop between designers and developers.

Who’s got some positive experience to share?

Thanks Folks,


We use our UI/UX in a number of different ways and they may not be scrum, but seem to work for us.

Pattern one: we use him for exploratory work. Normally a spike for a feature area, something we are thinking of attacking in the upcoming months. Normally he comes up with a range of solutions, starting with the simple to the more advanced. It isn’t fixed, but gives us an idea of how complicated the iterations are going to be.

Pattern two: on brand new areas, we ask him to use the feedback to provide an indication of design in the lead up sprint as part of the definition of ready.

Pattern three: he has been working on design guidelines and components to make life simpler for devs without the same style sensibility

Pattern four: he consults and assists devs with style on the way through, providing expertise as one of the team

Pattern five: he picks up stories and does them like any other team member. Sometimes you need something concise or is style or html only. He is more than competent and joins in. We’ve even got him using GIT effectively.

Long and short, I rate him as a valuable member of the team and love working with someone who cares passionately about UX. There are some ideas in Lean UX that might be worth a look. Basically, we work with the skills he brings to give customers the best we can.


@bradstokes Thanks for posting your work patterns! I’m curious, do you pair teams and designers in a fairly 1:1 manner? I know in many companies, the designer to developer ratio is a big limiting factor. Just wondering if you have designers semi-
permanently paired to a team, or if the designers rotate more based on project. Thanks!


As a person who used to work in UI/UX (before being a tech PM and also before Agile was a thing), it’s always interesting to me to tackle this question.

First problem, does a company need the discipline of UX design enough to invest in specialized experts in this field? Many companies don’t do this (they probably should), and this is a non-agile bigger problem. You’ve already crossed this line, but I wanted to call it out as many readers of this thread won’t be that fortunate.

So, you work in a company that believes in this (yay!), but can only hire one person across several scrum teams… now you have a non-dedicated resource pulled in many directions and they HATE agile as they can’t round-robin fast enough. In this scenario, I’ve seen one of two things work:

  • Have that individual work in “review” mode and basically work as an expert that floats and trains the teams to become better at the discipline themselves. The team owns the work, the expert is a coach, not a do-er.
  • Prioritize the biggest issues/problems and have that person work a “UX backlog” in front of the sprints and do the best they can knowing they are solving the biggest problems first. Also, give them budget/customer-access to do user testing to validate that the priorities they are focusing on, are actually the best to prioritize.

At some point, the company makes money and grows… or has an “oh shit” moment about how important this role is… at that point maybe you can get more bodies into the discipline. As much as I’d like to see a dedicated UX person on each team, this isn’t any more likely than seeing this with scrum masters. So, in these scaled environments, I’ve seen a mostly successful balance where SM’s and UX folks are both “matrixed” across two teams (no more than 2!!!). The UX folks will work ahead of the sprints, and I treat them as a BA (business analyst/product analyst) role that extends the role of the technical PO. Basically the PO writes the basic story and then the UX person takes ownership of that and flushes out the wireframes and acceptance criteria (while validating with dev’s along the way). This becomes an integral part of the backlog grooming/estimation process. Some might say this isn’t “agile”, but I simply argue that it’s not pure Scrum. If a little waterfall in front of 2 sprints makes those sprints go better, then we are doing the right thing.

The other important effort I’ve found is making sure that a “community of practice” forms across the UX team across agile teams. You don’t want each team to solve similar problems with different patterns, because then your customers get lost. My current company has a common pattern library and style guide that is mentored by the UX team across the global company (even though product interfaces vary considerably) and the front end dev’s are well-engaged in understanding and responding to it (part of our Done criteria includes a “visual QA” review with Dev:UX on all stories before closure).

On a side note… “community of practices” are just as important for all “practices” and we set and work similarly for DevOps, Performance Testing, Penetration Testing, etc, etc, etc. (Big company, wicked problems!)

I hope this helps and I’m very curious for other approaches/patterns (successful or failed) people have seen in other companies as it’s a problem still being explored!


We are fortunate to have 2 feature teams in the office working on a single product. We do share our designer with the organisation and the other team, but we manage that as needs be.

Also of the two teams one is more frontend focused, although we both go for full vertical slices. Our UX/UI person lives in the team that skews to the front.

It all seems to work well, and we work with him to lighten the load when it doesn’t. I also have UI/UX design skills so we aren’t completely dependant on him alone. T-shape skills ftw!


Much that works in scrum is not pure scrum. It is about finding what works. I am interested to see if anyone has UI/UX firmly fixed to sprints.

The other argument is if you use the UI/UX as part of the Definition of Ready with their work seen as backlog refinement, you are still “inside” scrum. Truly though, this is pure sophistry.

There was a pretty good discussion of communities of practice (COP) here: How to establish Communities of Practice?

What is the saying? "As iron sharpens iron, so is a person the countenance of their friends.

I have found that COPs are important to the development of talent in a skill area in a larger company. Companies that foster them end up with a more engaged employees (and often more advanced), than those that don’t.