Smarter Software with Activity-Centered Design
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Smarter Software with Activity-Centered Design

About the Book

All too often simply the wrong software gets created. It may work but not as the users or stakeholders expected. Or it may solve the wrong problem altogether. Despite the vast improvements in the way how software teams create software since the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001 still many software projects fail in one way or another.

To many, the word design only describes how something looks but in fact it means how it works and looks. Well designed products are created based on a deep understanding of which activities users want to perform and are well engineered. This fitness makes these products superior to their competition and in some cases such products shake up an entire industry.

Activity-Theory traces its roots back to the thoughts of Goethe, Kant and Hegel. Being used by Russian and Finnish psychologists in the field of learning and children development it now is slowly finding its way into Interaction and Software Design.

This book shows how Activity Theory can be used to create smarter software. You will learn how a sucessful software development team can effectively work with users and stakeholders to deliver high quality solutions.

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  • Categories

    • Software
    • Agile

About the Author

Stephan Schwab
Stephan Schwab

Stephan Schwab started writing code sometime back in 1981. Since then he has worked on a large number of different platforms using about 20 different programming languages. His own successful failures and those of others made him realize that all too often organizations create software that solves the wrong problem. His current work focuses on activities and how software can be created that better allows people to perform what they want to do.

Stephan has been living in many countries and recently moved back to Germany where he works as an independent Software Development Coach for his own company Caimito Technologies ( He blogs at

Table of Contents

  • Frequent Feedback Desired
  • Preface
  • About Software Development
  • Activity Theory
  • Human Activity, Actions, And Operations
  • Learning And Development
  • The Being of Software
  • Tests Are Software Too
  • Quality
  • Software Product Design
  • Activity-Centered Design
  • Acquisition of Knowledge Through Design
  • Speed
  • Building Software Is Cheap - Designing Software Is Expensive
  • Analysis, Design, Deployment
  • Why Software Design Is Expensive
  • The World Software Exists In
  • Actions and Activities
  • The Relationship Between Activity And Action
  • Mediating Tools
  • Business Activity And Action
  • User Actions And Tasks
  • System Action
  • Operations
  • Maps
  • Maps Of The Physical World
  • Ontological Maps
  • Mapping Actions And Activities
  • Domain Language
  • Activities And Actions
  • Roles And Standard Practices
  • Common Issues And Breakdowns
  • Concerns, Interests And Fears Of Domain Actors
  • Applying Activity-Centered Design
  • From Understanding Activities to User Stories
  • User Stories
  • Focus On The Outcome
  • Discover Personas
  • Validate Story Ideas Against an Activity System
  • Story Map To Guide The Implementation
  • Isn’t that upfront design?
  • Discoveries During Implementation
  • Finding Acceptance Criteria
  • Define ticket types
  • Buying a ticket to the Wizbang conference
  • Putting It Together
  • Review Of User-Centered Design
  • Focus On Activities And Working Software
  • The Activity-Centered Design Loop
  • Organizational Structure And Management
  • Why Traditional Software Projects Fail
  • Too Much Focus On Implementation Or Construction
  • Managing People Instead of Projects
  • Tunnel Vision of Corporate Requirements Analysts
  • Poor Software Quality
  • A Team Of Designers
  • Being Agile
  • Product Owner
  • Business Analyst
  • Tester
  • Programmer
  • User Experience Designer
  • Influence Of Tools
  • Reinforcement Of Silos Due To Tool Choice
  • New Rules Based On Tool Choice And Loss Of Main Influencer
  • Managing Software Design Projects
  • Inception
  • Solution Scoping
  • Development
  • Extension
  • Appendix
  • Well Working Techniques And Practices
  • Test-Driven Design
  • Domain-Driven Design
  • Acceptance Test-Driven Development
  • Walking Skeleton
  • Comics
  • Bibliography

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