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What Exactly Is the Lean Process for UX Design, and Why Is It Important? (Part 1)

Learn the three points of Lean UX, and the important principles behind them.

Elisa Riteau

Elisa Riteau

posted on May 23, 2017

 

"The days of the waterfall process are over. Work is continuous." - Lean UX Designing Great Products with Agile Teams, by Jeff Gotheld & Josh Seiden

When you work in the digital industry in general and on interactive design in particular, you are always navigating a moving terrain. As a result, you’re regularly forced to question your methods. So here’s how I would summarize my daily job: There is no comfort zone; just constant adaptation.

And one thing that I’ve learned through the years: we have to be fast to improve our methodology and to fit customer expectations. Doing so lead us to Lean UX.

"It is a culture change that lets us approach our work with humility."

I recently read a very interesting book related to my career: the second edition of Lean UX Designing Great Products with Agile Teams, by Jeff Gotheld & Josh Seiden. To help you understand the definition of Lean UX and its principles, this will be my first of eight articles to cover each chapter of the entire book. But don’t worry, I won’t linger on details (the book does this very well); instead, I will outline the main ideas, key points, and quote highlights.

WHAT IS LEAN UX?

Lean UX is about:

1. Being as efficient as possible. The goal is to reduce waste that comes with the traditional process of writing heavy documents and spending hours overanalyzing everything in a meeting. Instead, there should be an increase in regular interactions with real customers through early testing.

2. Ensuring close collaboration and productive interaction between stakeholders. There should be “no rock stars, gurus, or ninjas.” Instead, a team must be composed of designers, product managers, marketers, and developers/engineers.

3. Not relying on just the designer to figure it out what’s best. Because the proposed design is just a hypothesis until it’s approved by customers, the process has to engage the whole team. The team has to build the product, measure the product continuously with the audience, and learn from the results to improve the design. All this will result in the minimum viable product (MVP).

"Teams are now facing intense pressure from competitors who are using techniques like Agile software development, continuous integration, and continuous deployment to radically reduce their cycle times … In essence they are discovering their product at the same time they are delivering it.”

WHAT ARE THE LEAN UX PRINCIPLES?

Now that we’ve outlined the three main points of Lean UX, let’s go into more detail about each one.

Design Process: Being as efficient as possible.

“There is more value in creating the first version of an idea than spending half a day debating its merits in a conference room.”

In order to be efficient during the design process, it’s important to remember these steps:

  • Divide the amount of work into several small tasks. By providing the design in pieces, the development sprints are optimized, which allows the whole team to move forward.
  • After each design and dev sprint releases, ask the customer to validate that the product covers his needs. By involving the customer as early as possible, the team avoids the risk of working on the wrong idea and ensures flexibility and constant improvement.
  • Share the work with those who aren’t involved in the project. A fresh eye can always generate new ideas. Try not to overanalyze but to create iterations instead.
  • Avoid being weighed down by heavy documentation. Instead, focus on these questions: What do we want to achieve? Which features need to be served first? How and when?

Team Culture: Ensuring close collaboration and productive interaction between stakeholders.

“Rather than focus on stat performers, Lean UX seeks team cohesion and collaboration”

Make sure there’s solid communication between everyone by remembering to:

  • Acknowledge “I know that I don’t know” but commit to testing and learning in order to gain clarity. Making assumptions without testing is like putting ingredients in a recipe without measuring them.
  • Understand the customer behavior in order to define the features that should be served first. Then, test those features to see if they perform well. Refine them post MVP release, if necessary.
  • Engage the team in small tasks and sprints. Remember to follow the “build-measure-learn” mentality. Forget the waterfall process, which can often mean working blindly for months on a product without knowledge of customers’ real needs, which can lead to an uncertain outcome.
  • Ask the team how they each perceive the product and the target audience to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Be humble when listening to what the non-designers of the team have to say. Empathy and collaboration are the keys to success, which creates a healthy working environment.
  • Continue experimenting without the fear of being “wrong.” There is no ideal product without making mistakes, which can lead to “lesson learned” and “progress made.”

Team Organization: Not relying on just the designer to figure it out what’s best.

“Keep your teams small—no more than 10 total core people.”

It’s not enough to have a team, it’s important to have a team that works well together, as these key points remind us:

  • Work with a team of diverse skills (engineer, product manager, interactive designer, content strategist, marketer) and gather different points of view to reach a better solution.
  • Have one small team dedicated to one project so that everybody is focused on the same outcome.
  • Provide the team with all the necessary tools and resources to move forward with efficiency and flexibility; avoid external dependencies.
  • Problem solve together! Identify the problem and find a solution through close communication, which is another way for the team to bond.

I hope what I shared here has given you a better understanding of Lean UX principles, and will help you apply them in future work situations. (And, empiricism proves to be right when it generates great results!)

I’ll end with a quote that applies to work and to life: “We sometimes want to reinvent the wheel, but it is absurd not to take advantage of the breadth of knowledge accumulated by those who have mastered their art and know-how. Wanting all over again without benefiting from the wisdom of others is not a good strategy.” (Beyond the Self: Conversation between Buddhism and Neurosciences, by Matthieu Ricard, Wolf Singer)

Read More in This Series Part 2: Product Fit | Part 3: Collaborative Design

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