Posted on

Agile UX Sketching and Scrum

Last-Import-09-300x300“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” That was the advice of Arthur BrisbaneEditor The Syracuse Post Standard March 28, 1911. Despite originally referring to newsprint, the adage still holds true in the digital age.

Sketching for understanding” is an efficient and effective way to gather tons of ideas in a short period of time while cultivating shared understanding across agile teams. With the right structure and active participation, sketching with Scrum teams can really pay dividends throughout the release life cycle.

Use the following guide to help plan and facilitate your next agile sketching session.

Define Inputs (5 minutes)

Before we get started we’ll need to identify some inputs. Inputs are data that inform the sketching process. They can include a product vision, assumption personas of intended users, and specific scenarios where they might use the product or feature.

Start with the vision

Insert vision summary and goals for the product or feature here…

  • Using individual sticky notes, write as many possible scenarios where a person would experience product or feature.
  • Using separate sticky notes, write down possible functionality the product or feature should have to enhance the experience of your scenarios.
  • Now imagine the person in your scenario – using a separate your sticky note, write a brief description; age, gender, job title and interests.

Sketch (5 minutes)

Focus on the ideas. It’s not about bad or good, it’s about Can you see it? Can you understand it?


Using boxes, arrows, callouts, and common metaphors, anyone can communicate an idea with pen and paper.

  • Using blank paper, explore as many ideas as possible. This phase is about ideas and exploration so try to force your self to come up with as many ideas as possible. Don’t stop at the first one.
  • If you get stuck, list ideas as words, then try different combinations of words to inspire different ideas. Sketch those ideas on new paper.
  • Another technique is to explore opposites. If one idea is a richly animated experience, explore static two-dimensional options.


  • We want fast not perfect
  • If you mess up – don’t start over
  • If things really go wrong – grab a new sheet of paper


  • Thin/Regular Sharpie
  • Sticky notes
  • 6up & 1up templates

Get Organized (10 minutes)

Now that we have created lots of ideas, let’s explore how these ideas work together.

  • First we’ll need to put our inputs on the wall. It’s handy to have these available when talking about different ideas
  • Next, using scissors and drafting dots we’ll cut up and add our ideas and add them to the wall.
  • Once all our ideas are posted, we’ll review the ideas to better understand the thinking behind them
  • With a shared understanding of what we’re looking at, we’ll group similar ideas. The team will move things around as necessary.
  • Next, we’ll label the groupings. It’s good to use sticky notes here so we can move them around as needed.

Critique (5minutes)

Critique is about critical thinking. Effective critique is selfless. The goal of critique is to gather initial thoughts and reactions, to better understand the thinking behind an idea.

Ask questions

  • Provide time, sticky notes and markers for people to review ideas and add notes as needed next to the related ideas
  • Ask open questions that include HOW, WHERE, WHO – not closed questions with DOES, SHOULD, or COULD (critique nor judgment)
  • Refer to inputs like requirements, user descriptions when appropriate
  • The goal is to collect and display as much of the feedback, notes, questions, comments, as possible within the context of the design.

Collect feedback

  • Working individually, use the red sticky notes to document as many holes or concerns we can think of. The goal is to be thorough and inclusive
  • Add each sticky to the wall next to the thing they are referring to
  • After comments and notes have been added to the board, review as a team

Wrap Up (5 minutes)

Now that we have collected and organized notes, comments, and sketches, the results need to be captured.

  • Review overall comments – black hat notes.
  • Take photo(s) of the wall. Be sure to capture clear photos of the work for future reference
  • Thank everyone for their participation and remind the team the results of the exercise will be used to inform the design process in upcoming iterations

About the Author

Rick Butler is a User Experience Architect and Agile UX Specialist with over 12 years of experience in Human Factors Engineering.

Rick has worked with corporations across a variety of industries including marketing and promotion, e-commerce, publishing, local search and interactive advertising.

Rick is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Arts and a Certified Usability Analyst from Human Factors International.

Rick specializes in UX strategy and integration with agile organizations. His expertise includes user research, facilitating collaborative design, concept development, prototyping, and user testing and product development.