What is Lean UX?
Lean UX is a highly collaborative, iterative, design technique that focuses on solving specific user problems in short periods of time, and it enables teams to design for user experience within the constraints of development sprints. It requires frequent iteration based on your ideal customer’s needs and wants, and minimizes wasted resources in the process.
Lean UX is driven by user problems and the hypotheses and assumptions of what will solve those problems. It favours simple functionality that solves problems over comprehensive documentation and solutions that are difficult to implement.
With any new product there comes the risk that nobody will buy it. You could invest significant time and money, but with little profit to show for it. Organizations mitigate this risk by creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The MVP is typically created in short sprints (this is often categorized as an Agile methodology). But within an MVP, there is the issue of user experience. How can you develop a product with the minimum required features, but still deliver a positive user experience? That’s where Lean UX comes in.
Lean UX methodology
Lean UX methodology requires you to think very carefully about the product you are creating in context of the customer you are creating it for. Validation plays a very important role during this process, as there will inevitably be misses along the way. Just as with an MVP, the faster you can release a feature or update, the faster you can gather valuable customer feedback on the UX and make impactful changes to your product.
Lean UX eliminates cumbersome steps in the development process by filtering out the “waste” – the resources (time, money, functionality, etc.) that don’t actually solve a specific problem in the short term. Lean UX promotes faster design processes and enables designers and developers to quickly adapt to any necessary changes. And, since the focus is on engaging in smaller, digestible chunks of work, Lean UX allows teams and departments to share key information with each other without getting bogged down with endless documentation.
Why use Lean UX?
Here are a few common reasons organizations use Lean UX in their design process.
It’s a more cost-efficient project approach. Because the process involves validation at regular intervals, the spend is more controlled and measurable. There is also less risk of the project plowing ahead and, as mentioned earlier, resulting in a product nobody wants to buy.
Lean UX saves you just as much time as money. Because of the emphasis on frequent, in-person collaboration, it doesn’t require lengthy documentation and allows your team to get to the solution faster.
Centered on users
Since Lean UX is focused on creating great user experiences, it employs a user-centered design (UCD) approach. Every decision that is made should be based on your users’ needs, wants, and preferences.
Driven by data
Accurate data and information equips you to make informed decisions about your product. And, while assumptions are a key aspect of the Lean UX process, they are validated often with the information you collect from team members and users along the way.
The Lean UX process
There are three key phases within the Lean UX process: Think, make, and check.
In the thinking phase, your team brainstorms who your ideal customer is, what their needs are, and what problems they may encounter with your product.
The make phase can include everything from wireframes and prototypes to full development. Each stage is open for iterations and adaptations and is focused on the minimum effort required to achieve solutions.
Validating your product performance is key. This may take the form of usability testing, analysis, customer feedback surveys, and face-to-face meetings. In the context of a web project, A/B testing and heat mapping can provide valuable insights and direction for changes. The checking phase is not a one-time thing, and should be repeated frequently to increase the value of your offering to your user.