What is Lean UX?

Ingredients of Lean UX

Today, UX design is a crucial part of digital products. It plays a key role especially for web-based applications in terms of interactive user interfaces. There is a broad diversity of devices, displays dimensions, and interaction possibilities via clicking, touch gestures etc. UX architects and designers work on adapting human factors and usability principles into software development lifecycles (SDLC). UX is a set of principles that should be considered and applied before, during, and after a SDLC.

Another popular term in software development world is Agile. At its core, Agile is a set of values to use as compass to guide a team through SDLC. Whatever process or tools are used and how they are applied are secondary to the overall goals of empowering a highly functional team as it builds great software to the delight of its end users.

Agile development is becoming increasingly mainstream. But there are difficulties to integrate UX with Agile in order to build human factors into Agile development processes.

Jakob Nielsen says “Agile mainly addresses the implementation side of system development. As a result, it often overlooks interaction design and usability, which are left to happen as a side effect of the coding”. This situation can be seen in User Stories, which are the expression of feature requirements in Agile methodologies. User Stories are just the beginning points of both the requirements elicitation and development. The problem is that User Stories only define the functional requirements and don’t pay a special attention to understanding and defining the non-functional requirements that are crucial for UX in order to produce useful and usable products.

The key question that motivates agile teams is how to produce a quality product.

Agile methods concentrate on team and deliverables but don’t think intensively about business values. It’s not considered thorough SDLC whether the outcoming result will success on markets and satisfy business propositions.

Lean Startup for customer-centric iterating

Lean Startup methodology is very popular too, introduced as an appropriate methodology in order to focus on business values, think about end-customers intensively and validate the correctness of a product and its features before develop it. The lean methodology proposed by the startup pioneer, Eric Ries deals with a new-business strategy that directs the efforts to allocate resources in the more efficiently possible way. Lean Startup practitioners mostly include agile values but generally overlook user experience because they work and organize themselves customer-oriented, not user-oriented.

Lean UX as a new mindset

In summary, the mentioned philosophies above deal with different aspects of a quality product in today’s digital life. Human factors as a crucial quality factor of products is adopted by UX, motivated, fast and cross-skill teams to produce quality products is organized by Agile, business-oriented planning, customer development and efficient resource allocation is introduced by Lean Startup. In this context, Lean UX appears as a new mindset that deals with incorporating these three domains.

Lean UX is still very much in its youth and is gathering an increasing amount of momentum and attention. The term was first coined by Janice Fraser in 2010 and popularised by Jeff Gothelf’s book in 2013. Lean UX combines Agile and Lean Startup philosophy with UX for an effective, fast, and human-centered customer and product development.