What product manager wouldn’t want to free designers to exercise the full reach of their user experience expertise? What project team doesn’t want to spend less time annotating mobile or web UX deliverables and — yet — create a more valuable result overall? The answer: Everyone. The problem is not all projects utilize a designer’s ability to shape the highest quality experience to its full potential.
Designing “The Old Way” in a New World
In the old world (and often still today), a design team might be engaged to craft the experience for a mobile app. First, there was discovery period spanning four or, for the unlucky ones, as many as six months. It might have included multiple designers wireframing each possible feature and annotating them after a series of in-depth design reviews only to find out developing all the possible features landed outside scope.
What’s wrong with this world? This process turns highly capable experience and interaction designers into production machines. Does it exercise the full extent of their creativity? Not a chance. Does it waste budget? You bet.
Teams today, whether it’s a group of entrepreneurs racing towards the next investor meeting or an accelerator operating within a larger enterprise, are all strapped for time, money — and — let’s be honest, sanity. Yet, none of them are willing to compromise the value of the output. Translation: That’s why many projects run over schedule or over budget.
Adopting a lean UX methodology can save on both.
Whether you’re working with a development partner who is a practitioner of lean UX methodology or thinks the process might hold merit for your internal software or product team, the purpose of lean UX is simple: Increase collaboration during the design process and potentially shave weeks off your schedule.
Decrease UX Deliverables, Increase Design Productivity
Think of lean UX as the more evolved cousin of the traditional design process requiring fewer UX deliverables. It differs from the historic design process by gathering feedback from users upfront and increasing the collaboration with all parties (stakeholders, dev teams, etc.) along the way. This might mean storyboarding together, sharing early wireframes or validating assumptions as design decisions are made. That way, teams substitute documenting design feedback in UX deliverables with meaningful exploration of experience options. In other words, designers have more capacity and time to do what they do best. Improve a solution.
The Lifecycle of Lean UX
Like reincarnation, lean UX isn’t a process that’s completed once. It’s a cycle that repeats through each phase of Agile project development. For good karma (and results), follow this cycle.
Discover. First stakeholders and the project team gather to explore the types of users who will be leveraging the solution and their needs. Talk with your target audience or the people who know them best. Surveying, focus groups and ethnography (watching users interact with the product/solution) all work well for discovery. Lean UX also provides faster meaningful discovery — a happy byproduct of getting ideas in front of development teams and stakeholders more quickly.
Define. Next business requirements are formalized.
Design. Following the definition phase, designers iterate beginning with established UI/UX patterns. The goal during the design phase isn’t to innovate and create an entirely new way to navigate in a web app for example. The goal is to provide value in creating the highest quality experience. More time is spent thinking, exploring and gathering feedback than old world design tactics.
Develop/Test. Designers remain involved as the product is developed and checked for quality.
Learn. Validation with internal/external resources should occur after every step in the process after which adjustments can be applied.
Documenting Less, Doing More
Lean UX was born out of necessity to create more value for the end users without increasing hour allocations or project spend. Ten years ago showing a client a notebook sketch was abhorrent — considered “beneath” designers who took pride in every aspect of their work even the intermediary steps. Lean UX removes designers from the “deliverables business.” Instead, it encourages collaboration and includes clients as partners rather than passive judges. With lean UX, clients are involved, validating progress and decisions along the way. This translates into a vastly improved user experience starting with the first release.
The Case for Lean UX
Everyone’s hunting. Design, development and product teams seek quicker ways to create, validate and revise. Entrepreneurs need low-budget ways to impress investors. Lean UX offers rapid, professionally designed solutions by limiting the scope to save everyone a little time, money and sanity.