Lean UX, Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden



“Lean UX”, Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience, by Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden, describes a design process beneficial to UX Designers. Applying systems analysis principles, Lean UX describes how to integrate the practice into a design team.  Agile is a development methodology and deals with UX design; it is iterative design that uses product feedback to improve the user experience and the implementation process. The first two chapters discuss 4 core principals of agile development to product design.


The first principle is “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools”, which engages the entire team, the ideas flow freely and frequently, and use collaborative tools that help facilitate this line of communication. Examples of collaboration tools are; for wireframing: Axure, InVisionApp, for sharing documents; Google Drive, Visual Studio, SharePoint, or Wiki Team pages.


The second principle is “Working software over comprehensive documentation”, to build workable software/User Interfaces quicker, to assess if the solution is market fit and determine its viability. You can measure and assess the user interface’s viability through thorough user testing and gathering user feedback.


The third principle is “Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation”. This phase foster’s collaboration with teammates and customers to brainstorm an understanding of the problem and proposed solutions. Following these principles produces faster iterations and heavy documentation of the user interface. If you do not follow this approach, you won’t have solid requirement documents for the user interface.


The fourth principle is “Responding to change over following a plan”, after the initial product design, discover what’s working and what’s not, and adjust proposals and test again. This is a valuable approach that recognizes in agile design plans must be flexible.


A great quote from the book defines what the practice of Lean UX is: “Lean UX is the practice of bringing the trust nature of a product to light faster, in a collaborative, cross-functional way that reduces the emphasis on thorough documentation while increasing the focus on building a shared understanding of the actual product experience being designed.”


Having cross-functional teams are beneficial in the process of Lean UX. Cross-functional teams should be involved in creating your product. They are a mix of software engineers, product management, and should be involved in the interaction design, visual design, content strategy, marketing, and quality assurance process. All play a role in a Lean UX team. This is continuous till the end of the project life cycle.  Ideally, there should be a total of 10 people on a team, on one project at the same location.  The 10 people can consist of: software engineers, products management, interaction design, visual design, content strategy, marketing, and quality assurance. While in practice a team member can wear multiple hats, it is important that each member approach their contribution from their unique perspective. If it is a multiple hat style team it is beneficial to get additional input from stakeholders and users of the interface.


“Lean UX measures progress in terms of explicitly defined business outcomes.” A UX Designer should manage the business outcomes and make progress towards them, and figure out the efficiency of the products features. If a feature is not working well, the UX Designer should make an objective decision to keep, change or replace the features.


A project focus team is important to have within the Lean UX process.  The UX Designer should assign teams to solve problems and this shows trust in the teams. They will come up with their own solutions to the problems. One team assigned to a project. This also highlights the value of team ownership of the solution. With trust comes a commitment that each member of the team is valuable to the overall solution.


The book suggests keeping inventory low and to make the inventory high quality.  Design is necessary to move the team forward and avoid a big inventory, which are untested, or unimplemented design ideas. Keep engaging customers during the design and development process.  Also keep to regularly scheduled activities relating to quantitative and qualitative methods. This also implies group knowledge of milestones. Everyone on the project should be aware of decision points, and presentation deadlines. Know what the users are doing with the product and why they are doing it. Do Research on a regular schedule and involve the entire team. Avoid rock stars, gurus, and ninjas; it is not a good habit to have them in a workplace because “other elite experts of their craft break down team cohesion and eschew collaboration”. Use whiteboards, foam core boards, artifact walls, printouts, and sickly notes to share and analyze the teams work progress to other teammates, colleagues, and customers. Make sure to talk to customers in the field and develop potential scenarios. Going out of the building is a good way to do this process. Performing active listening liaison with sponsors and stakeholders. Look to see how is not providing input and go out of your way to touch base with them. Get a complete picture of the stakeholders’ requirements.


In addition, the book mentions to learn first and scale second. Making sure an Idea is right comes before scaling it out which “mitigates the risk inherent in broad feature deployment”. Also find out the project outcomes the team is achieving. It entails a cross-functional collaboration involving the stakeholders and the team.


A UX Designer should apply the principles learned in the “Lean UX” book, to define the “team’s makeup, location of research/user testing, goals, and practices”.  The first two chapters is a good start to towards constructing a Lean UX process. The Lean UX process will lead towards more faster and functional solutions and solid teamwork process and outcomes. It will also provide a means of preventing some common UX pitfalls, which come from poor team/users/stakeholder’s communications, and poor non-flexible planning.