Lean UX — Less Waste, More Design

Learn, build, measure, iterate, repeat.

Traditionally speaking user experience design has been a deliverables based field. Designers would spend time creating a multitude of presentation material that often included wireframes, site maps, flow charts, content inventories, taxonomies, mockups and specifications documents. Just to name a few. But times have changed a bit.

By the time a designer can conduct his/her research, gather all the data necessary, create wireframes, user flows, etc., and then present them to stakeholders the markets have already shifted. Opportunities often get missed. And a great deal of resources have been consumed.

In comes Lean UX.

Lean UX was inspired by Lean and Agile theories. The concept focuses on actually designing for the users experience and less time spent on creating deliverables. That does not mean that deliverables are not necessary and are not part of Lean UX. They very much are. What this means is that the user experience designer and the team working on the project will conduct their research, start creating something based off their findings, make a prototype that can be tested, learn about their assumptions, and iterate where necessary.

Documentation in a Lean UX workflow is stripped to include only the bare minimum amount of information necessary for short, iterative design cycles. Also it should be noted that Lean UX workflows and methodology is something that is highly adaptable. Therefore, if your team feels the need to create heavier documentation, do a bit more research, or anything more than that it is entirely ok.

Lean UX is a method meant to speed up design time and focus all your efforts on the most important user goals, wants, and needs. Thus saving in company resources and allowing the company to quickly build and ship. Which is essential to staying competitive in this rapidly changing marketplace.

The basic principles of Lean UX are as such:

Learn: Learn as much as you can, as often as you can, and apply that knowledge to your initial design.

Build: Work through a focused design session and quickly build a prototype or introduce a new feature to the product / service.

Measure: Without data we cannot track success. Test your hypothesis, test your design, see if it is working or not. Gather those results.

Iterate: Make adjustments based on your findings. You may find entirely new pain points the team did not find before. Take that information and refine the design.

Repeat: Repeat the process as needed.

The main ingredient of Lean UX is user feedback. Without user feedback Lean UX cannot work. Try to find out as much as you can up front and continue to learn about the user. But also reach out to the team members working on the project and get their feedback. As a designer we may create something that is not feasible for development, so it’s best to get that perspective before hand. Lean UX is a team effort.

The adaptation of Lean UX thinking within a business structure can prove to be extremely beneficial. Spotify is one of the leading companies in online streaming music. They have adopted Lean UX thinking and created a model that works extremely well and has proven to be rather successful in their business. So much so that other companies are adapting this philosophy.

Instead of disciplines being confined to their silo’s teams were built around functionality of the product and team members were assembled based upon what they brought to the table. Meaning that designers, developers, product owners, quality assurance, and so on all work together through the life cycle of the project to create the end result. Ideas are captured early and often.

Lean UX is not the holy grail or end all be all for workflows. On the contraire. Lean UX can be a great addition to an already existing workflow. In the book Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf he explains about a time when he was working with TheLadders and how he combined Lean UX thinking with Agile methodologies and was able to create a dynamic workflow that ended up being rather successful in moving TheLadders forward.

Lean UX is a great way for teams and businesses to stay competitive, reduce unnecessary resource expenditures, and build a better user experience. Lean UX doesn’t just make sense . . . It makes dollars!