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When it comes to creating a great user experience, designing a product, and hoping the users are satisfied and happy with it is not enough. Most successful product designs are built with a good management system.

In today’s article, Lean UX: A Beginner’s Guide, we will discuss what lean UX is and its role and importance in product design.

The following topics are also covered in this article



Product designs with better user experiences always boil down to good collaboration and teamwork between the involved departments and frequent interactions with the users. 

While this sounds like a lot to handle, you can easily apply this in your own organization with lean user experience.


What is lean UX?

Lean UX is a design management system that creates a well-designed product as a result of a frequent collaboration between departments, frequent iteration, and frequent interaction with the users. 

The goal of lean UX is to focus on getting feedback as early as possible to make swift decisions. Lean UX finds the quickest ways to achieve its end goal.


The foundations of lean UX

The lean UX process stands on the following important foundations as a guide:


Design thinking

This method uses the designer thinking and tools to adapt to the needs of people while at the same time maintaining a balance between what is technically viable and possible at a business level. 


Agile development method

While Agile development methodologies are considered as a development-focused methodology, the values of Agile are also shared in lean UX. Some of the Agile methods we can also see in lean UX include:

  • Ideas and solutions are shared, tested, and exchanged frequently
  • Teams, departments, and client’s collaboration creates a common understanding of problems, needs, and possible solutions, which results in fast interactions with less heavy documentation process involved
  • Quickly responds to changes. It assumes the first hypotheses or solutions may be inaccurate and incorrect, but its objective is to find out the problem as early as possible to get a better solution and to make the necessary changes in a repeated process   


Lean startup

Created by Eric Ries, who uses a “create-measure-learn” feedback loop to build a minimum viable product (MVP), the process begins the learning and construction process as soon as possible and maximizing the available resources while minimizing the risks. 

The idea of lean startup is to build a very basic version of the product and test it. If there are no desirable results, then abandon it. If there are valuable results, then improve them. The whole process is simplified below:

  • MVP is created
  • MVP is presented to the user
  • Changes are applied
  • A new iteration after the changes are done


Why use lean UX? 

A traditional UX process looks like this


As you may notice, there are so many processes involved under a traditional user experience process. The process creates some blockages and can be time-consuming.  

On the other hand, the advantage of using a lean UX method is less waste. 

The traditional UX process documents steps like sitemaps, flows, and diagrams. While these are useful, they are unnecessary extras that do not help in the development of the end product. Therefore, there is less focus on deliverables. 

Utilizing lean UX in the design process helps one maximize collaboration between designs and non-designs to help each other for co-creation. The result is a set of bigger and better ideas as compared to results produced by one individual contributor only. 

Ans since, with lean UX, the cycle is short, it maximizes efficiency and speed. The focus for UX lean is to a minimum viable product that goes to market. The process is as simple as creating the minimum, get the product out, understand the users, iterate, and so on.


The advantages of using lean UX 

There are so many advantages to using lean UX as a management system. But we have picked five reasons why you should try lean user experience (UX).


Increased collaboration

In lean UX, teams are cross-functional. By cross-functional means that people from across teams and departments work together in creating a product or software development. 

The more diverse the teams are, the better they can create a solution because the problem is seen from different points of view. 

Additionally, this diversity does not need any gated, hand-off processes, and instead, the teams share information informally, which in turn creates early collaboration in the process. All these things promote efficient teamwork. 


Improved outcomes

Lean UX, as previously mentioned, is focused on the product’s outcome rather than the output. This means the importance relies heavily on how the product impacts the user, rather than focusing on the mere end product design.

Although, it is easier to create product design and features, managing the possible outcomes will help us gain insights into the features that we are creating. In return, the designs have the freedom to produce minimal viable products based on set assumptions to see how these products perform. If the product or feature does not perform well, then we can quickly respond and make the necessary changes. 


Streamlined feedback process

Lean UX is more about doing rather than talking. And this is true in terms of getting feedback from its users. 

The process involves more crating the first version of the idea, rather than talking about its merits.

In lean UX, creating a product is based on the feedback of its target users. In a traditional UX process, you start with a product design that is based on the feedback of a manager or one of the members of the team. 

Thus, most traditional UX processes spend so much time deliberating the paralysis and analysis resulting in a lot of waste. 


Reduced time-to-market

While the traditional UX process creates a lot of waste, lean UX processes on the other hand eliminate waste by removing the unnecessary aspects that do not contribute to creating the product for the users. 

So whatever that does not contribute to the lean UX goal is considered a waste and this is cut off quickly in the process.  

The lean UX strategy is always based on this important question: Does this help create a good product for the users? If the answer is no then it should not be included in the process. 

This rule applies to all aspects including meetings, documentation, and even the stakeholders. 

The lean UX focus is the users. The users should always come first with every design decision.


Strengthened user research

Since lean UX focus in its process is the user, it puts emphasis on the user as early as possible. 

This can be done by going out of the building and explore the outside to get the users’ feedbacks. 

Rather than sitting in the office and spending hours and hours about a design, a lean UX process involved getting the users' feedback as soon as possible. It is better to test ideas early on in the design process to better find out which ideas you are missing out before spending so much time, money, and resources building a product that nobody likes. 


How lean UX works

To fully understand the lean UX strategy, we start by quoting Jeff Gothelf, co-author of Lean UX—Applying Lean Principles to Improve User

“Lean UX is, as its core, a mindset”

According to Jeff Gothelf, in order for this mindset to take effect, everyone involved in the UX design should adopt this mindset.

As Jeff Gothelf explains, all members in the organization need to be 100% on board and understand lean UX to make it effective.  

Now, let us take a look at the process. Lean UX is broken down into four processes:

1. Outcomes, assumptions, hypotheses

2. Design

3. Creating the MVP

4. Research and learning

Watch Jeff Gothelf talks more about the lean UX process below:


Outcomes, assumptions, and hypothesis

As previously said, most traditional UX processes center around a product or software development features and deliverables. Lean UX, on the other hand, is focused more on the outcomes and how the product benefit or don’t benefit the user. 

In lean UX, you create good outcomes through assumptions. By assumptions, this simply means one’s belief or expectation based on what you know about the users. 

Assumptions are risky and outright wrong, but these are important in the launching stage of your team.

There are 4 kinds of assumptions:

  • Business outcomes- how do you know your product was successful?
  • Users- Who are they? What is the persona?
  • User outcomes- What are the pain points? How can the product solve these pain points?
  • Features- How to improve the product going forward to give users the desired outcome?

Here is an example of a problem statement:

We have observed that [insert product/service/organization here] is not meeting [insert goals/needs], which is causing [insert problem/s here]. How do we improve so that [insert product/service/organization here] can be more successful based on [insert measurable criteria here]?

The problem statement above is useful as your basis when you have solved the problem. You may have multiple problem statements and it depends on your team if these problem statements are essential to the business goals and user goals that you want to target. 

From the problem statement, you may now create your assumptions. When creating your assumptions, it is best to have the list of problem statements with you. This way, it is easier for you to think about the user’s needs and the solutions. 

Use below starting assumptions as your help guide:

  • My user needs to
  • I believe I can get the majority of users through
  • The biggest risk is
  • The most important features are
  • What problems does the product solve?

Once you have laid out the assumptions, you then move to creating a hypothesis, which involves turning assumptions into hypothesis statements. 

Here is an example hypothesis statement that you can use as a template:

We believe this [insert outcome here] will be achieved if [insert users here] successfully [insert attain user outcome here] with this [insert feature here].

Here is an example of a hypothesis based on the template above:

We believe that click-throughs will increase by 50% if new visitors successfully manage to identify a larger call to action button. 


Design

This is where the UX design process begins and is also the stage where you test all your hypotheses.

Remember that in lean UX, there should be teamwork and collaboration. Thus, the design process involves all individuals and teams. 

The team from across the departments must draw and create wireframes together and everyone should be open to giving feedback on everything. The designers and developers can be the team facilitators to these conversations and meetings. 


Minimum viable product (MVP)

What is the least amount of work that you can do to learn more about the hypothesis? That is the question behind the minimum viable product (MVP).

MVP is considered the most basic expression of the product. The idea behind this is to get the simple product out in order to see how the target market reacts. 

MVP allows the team to collect the maximum amount of validated information about the target market with less team effort. MVP comes in different types:

  • Wireframes- low fidelity versions of the product
  • Mockups- high fidelity, full-scale versions of the product. Complete with designs, colors, and icons
  • Prototypes- very basic version of the product with minimal function and design

MVPs are built based on assumptions and hypotheses. Your target audience feedback and reactions to your MVP will give you the most insights into whether or not you are on the right track.


Research and learning

This is where you validate things and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I on the right track?
  • Is the product giving users what they need?
  • What are the things that need to be changed?

Research and learning require two things to be effective:

  • Continuous- are small, informal qualitative research techniques 
  • Collaborative- requires a team to work cross-functionally instead of the traditional individual silos to build a better shared understanding 

Again, the lean UX goal is to gain insights in a quick but comprehensive way, and this can happen if the research is done frequently and in a collaborative manner.  

Note that your target users will be a part of this process too. The users can be involved in conversations, interviews, and surveys. 

The conversations and insights that you will get will validate your hypothesis. And once you know the things that need to be changed and improved, then you need to get started and do everything again. 

This will be a rinse and repeat system until the product has satisfied the users’ needs.


How to get started with lean UX

If you are a designer who sees the importance of lean UX, you are making a good decision. This is because organizational change can be a challenge, especially when the process has not been changed for a long time. 

So how do you apply UX lean in your organization? To start organizational change, you need to:

  • Involve stakeholders 
  • Make amends with the bureaucracy
  • Get the right budget
  • Find a high-level support

The UX industry is all bout change. We have seen it so many times in the user interface or the navigational flow of a website. UX is always changing.

However, change in the UX process is another thing. And the people working in the UX industry should understand that the roles in UX such as a UX designers are constantly evolving. 

These days, UX designers shift from imagining creatives and executing solutions to fostering collective creativity. And the designer can facilitate the co-creation process of all involved professionals.  

For lean UX design to work, the traditional silos should be broken down. “Silos mentality” exists in an organization wherein departments or the entire team are used to keeping information for themselves and unwilling to share them with other teams. 

Instead of silos, what is more, needed are small, sub-teams that are self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency is important in lean UX since relying heavily on other teams or departments can hinder the process and can create more waste. 

With smaller teams, autonomy also needs to be highlighted. The lean UX way requires teams the freedom to solve problems on their own to get things done. This autonomy provides teams the ability to run experiments without retribution with accountability. 

By accountability, this involves reporting back to the organization with an outline of how the work is going and how things are happening with the teams and sub-teams. And this makes lean UX a much more efficient process. 

The lean UX process does not always work smoothly the first time you apply this in your organization. The teams need to properly understand and learn how to leverage lean UX to maximize its efficiency. This change may take time, especially if your organization is used to the traditional process for a very long time. 


Working lean UX methods

Some methods you can use that may work well for your team include:

  • Setting up realistic expectations when it comes to creating hypothesis and project timelines
  • Focusing on ideas that have strong hypotheses
  • Removing unsuccessful projects
  • Creating functional prototypes for users as early as possible
  • Finding trustworthy and experienced beta testers for more accurate feedback
  • Planning ahead for better user engagement and getting good product developments 


Lean UX tools

Furthermore, you may highly improve your lean UX process by choosing the right tools and resources that have the following features:

  • Built-in and customizable libraries
  • Seamless collaboration
  • Real-time data
  • Good design software
  • Interactive design elements
  • Can be integrated with popular file formats and design apps


To sum up

The lean UX concept is about creating a product that solves the problem for your target market as early as possible. And for this to happen you need to conduct the following steps quickly and repeat the process:

  • Create outcomes, assumptions, hypotheses
  • Create the user experience design
  • Create the MVP
  • Conduct research and learning

This article provides you with all the basic but comprehensive information that you need to learn lean UX. While this serves as an overview of the entire lean UX process, the basic concepts should enable you and your team to start heading in the right direction when it comes to practicing lean UX in your organization.

Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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