Notes From the Book: Lean UX Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

“It is in the smallest bottles that one find the best colognes and perfumes,” goes the saying in Brazil. I recently finished reading Jeff Gothelf’s and Josh Seiden’s Lean UX Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience. It was a short but immensely informative book. I am glad I had read Eric Ries’ Lean Startup book before this one because most of the concepts of the Lean methodology are reinforced in Lean UX, but with a focus on product design. 

The book’s premise it to educate the reader on how s/he can make greater contributions and be more effective in designing and building products within teams and organizations. And this is through learning about the Lean UX principles and integrating Lean UX in the work flow. 

In a nutshell, Lean UX is a blend of its three foundations: design thinking, Lean Startup concepts,  and Agile software development. Each one of these three has an array of best practices and principles. However, at its core, Lean UX is about removing waste from UX(User Experience) design processes i.e move away from “heavy documented handoffs to a pattern that creates design artifacts needed to move the team’s learning forward”.  

Also, Lean UX is about creating small cross functional teams- no more than 10 people. The team brings an array of skills(software development, product management, interaction design, visual, design ,etc) to the project. They focus on continuous discovery by creating small, batch-sized prototypes to show to the potential customer directly for instant feedback. There is no heroes or rockstars mentality in these groups because collaboration is endemic to Lean UX. Individuals are encouraged to prioritize learning over growth and making over over-analyzation. Failure is accepted because it breeds a culture of experimentation.

The steps of the Lean UX process are the following:

*Declare Assumptions: this phase allows each team member to voice their opinion on how best to solve the problem. Prioritized assumptions are the ones that are most high risk and unknown. From there, you create customer profiles/personas to visualize better all hypotheses. 

*Create an MVP: Minimum Viable Products help test the prioritized list of assumptions that the team comes up with. MVPS are prototypes which can be low fidelity ones, such as designs jotted on pieces of paper and post-its, or mid- and high fidelity prototypes, such as hand-coded designs. 

*Run the experiment:  It is the step where the learning occurs. The team demos the prototype to stakeholders and and teammates. The purpose is to design only what the team needs to test, deliver it quickly so as to create enough customer contact and get meaningful feedback fast.

*Feedback and Research: This is achieved through what the authors describe as collaborative discovery. Each member of the team must get out of the building and interview target customers in public spaces and/or bring customers to the office.  The goal is to collect data and look for patterns that point to the best user experience and which bring the most value to the customer.

Throughout the book, Josh and Jeff write about techniques and give many examples on how Lean UX can be implemented in practice. They take the examples from their past experiences working at the Ladders and other consulting work. They also mention that it is no easy task  to integrate Lean UX with Agile software development to a organization, especially if they are used to creating BDUF(Big Design Up Front) and other waterfall software development habits. 

The lesson here is that Lean UX is a mindset. Teams work better when they collaborate. Everyone gets to design and the entire team should participate in all activities, such as stand ups, brainstorming sessions, etc. It is everybody’s attendance that makes Lean UX successful. 

The book Lean UX Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience is a short but valuable read. There is a great balance between cases studies, recommendation and theory. It is a great companion to Eric Ries’ Lean Startup. I now have a better idea of how teams work collaboratively in a “lean” environment. I look forward to working at a place where I can put these newfound ideas into practice.

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