Lean UX is a mindset

Due to the rapid evolution of product design environment and the evolution to agile software development methodologies, UX designers needed to adapt their processes to fit and have place in such fast paced environment.

Lean UX is the result of this evolution in product design. It takes the best processes and tools from the traditional UX process, adapts and combines them in order to make them adequate to this new reality.

So, what is Lean UX?

The concept of Lean UX comes from putting together Lean Startup principles and Agile theories (Lean startup+Agile theories= Lean UX). In addition to these two foundations, there is a third one that is quite important: Design Thinking.

According to Tim Brown (CEO and president of IDEO), Designing Thinking is

“…innovation powered by…direct observation of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made…”

In this sense, Design Thinking is a problem resolution method that provides practical and creative ways to solve problems.

The importance of this foundation for Lean UX lays on the fact that every aspect of the business can be approached with design methods. This means that not only designers can contribute for the problem solution but also non-designers can use design methods to solve the problem, encouraging cross-functional teams to collaborate and come up with the best solution together.

How does it work?

And how to make it work.

Lean UX is deeply collaborative and cross-functional. Aims at reducing waste, and with that end all processes and blockers that do not lead to the ultimate goal — a good working product! Bases it process in creating quickly, testing and measuring what works, learn from it and adjust.

As Jeff Gothelf co-author of “Lean UX — Applying Lean Principles to Improve User” stated

“Lean UX is, at its core, a mindset”

Lean UX involves small, dedicated, cross-functional teams together in shared space, to encourage better communication, a high level of collaboration and a better understanding of the process, leading to stronger relationships.

The team should be focused on solving a problem and not in developing a component or a feature.

Progress in Lean UX is based on results. We should create only the necessary (minimum) design deliverables that allow the team to move forward. Anything that doesn’t contribute is considered waste and should be removed from the working process. This means less documentation and more work on solving users problems and needs in the product.

All work should be externalised. Use whiteboards, pin the sketches to cork boards, add printouts and sticky notes to the walls. Not only increases shared knowledge but also encourages collaboration.

Foster a work environment where it is allowed to fail. This will encourage teams to experiment more and fosters their creativity.

Last but not least, and definitely a very important principle of Lean UX: test your ideas!Test early, test often. “Get out of the building” and talk to your users. Frequent contact with users will help you understand their actions and motivations and helps with validation of new ideas.

Comeback with the learnings and iterate the product.

The Process

Lean UX Process (picture from @acarqueija presentation in the Lean UX workshop by EDIT)

Lean UX process starts with a concept that should be transformed in a prototype quickly to be validated by stakeholders (internally). Then, the prototype should be validated by the users (externally). Teams should learn from users behaviour and iterate the product. And then, start again the loop.

Goal: generate results as soon as possible.

To know the details about the process including collaborative design techniques, MVP’s and the importance of prototyping and user feedback in Lean UX check Lean UX principles by Jeff Gothelf.

How to go Lean in you organisation

Now comes the hard part, how to integrate Lean UX in your actual work. Two big questions emerge:

  • How does user research fits in Lean Ux?
  • How to integrate the work in sprints?

For the first question, the answer is simple. Guerrilla testing. It is actually the most common technique used in Lean UX to do some tests with users. It’s quick, cheap and provides actionable results fast.

In what regards how to integrate the work in sprints, it’s more complicated to find a straight answer. There are several ways to do it. You just have to make a place for design. Of course other factors related with the team, schedule and project can impact the approach but you can adapt your process and timings to fit your needs.

“Just in time” design can be a good option to integrate Lean UX work into the scrum sprints. With this method, design is done within a sprint. Should be supported by the reduce waste principle from Lean UX and use minimum-viable-fidelity deliverables. It requires a lot of collaboration between team members but it’s easier to track in scrum and works well if you have already a style guide defined.

As every methodology, this one should be treated as a guide instead of followed blindly. Adapt to your own processes and take baby steps into integrating the changes in your organisation.

In the end, it is a matter of educating people in order to change mentalities towards a new process.

Want to know more about Lean UX?

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