What Is Lean UX: How to Accelerate and Boost Your Development Process

Chances are you're familiar with the fast pace at which the tech industry evolves. This demands a rapid turnaround development process from the team, and this challenge is the main opposition that keeps professionals in the field inventive, perceptive, and resourceful.

In your search for different productivity techniques, you may have come across many design management systems and strategies, and Lean UX is probably one of them. What is Lean UX, how does the process work, and should your team integrate it into your workflow?

This article gives a Lean UX definition, covers Lean UX methodology, and how adopting it can boost your UX design process.

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What is Lean UX and its methodology?

90% of users attest that an app’s poor performance has discouraged them from using it. This makes UX, or user experience, an essential part of your development process – if not its main priority. The goal in UX is to produce solutions for your customers proficiently.

Having too many potential solutions is an excellent problem to have. In Lean UX, (given enough evidence and the appropriate data to move forward in a project) every potential direction is considered. Let's look at what Lean UX is and how applying it to your work processes can help boost your team's productivity.

Lean UX Definition

Lean user experience (Lean UX) is a design management system focused on the rapid production of user-first products, made to develop thoughtfully designed products that put customers’ needs first.

Jeff Gothelf published his book on Lean UX in 2011, intending to integrate and apply Agile principles and methodology to UX design. He established the Lean UX canvas in the subsequent iterations of the process to better practice the flow and help designers effectively collect and iterate the relevant data.

According to Gothelf, the second version of the Lean UX canvas is “a facilitation tool for cross-functional teams designed to create a customer-centric conversation within the team about the work they’re doing.”

Accomplishing the canvas serves to anchor the team’s efforts on the true purpose of why they’re developing the project. This directs the brainstorming sessions to focus on solving problems based on evidence. The canvas also asks teams about the most important things to learn and to determine the riskiest assumptions. This helps the team effectively prioritize tasks.

The quick turnaround for each iteration in lean UX is built on a workflow of data gathering, creativity, benefit hypotheses, crafting a minimum viable product, testing its value and effectiveness, then applying changes as necessary. The objective behind the Lean UX methodology is to focus on developing solutions based on verified data.

Lean UX Methodology

The original objective of creating the Lean UX methodology is focused on optimizing the UX development process with the following goals in mind:

  • Evidence-based brainstorming – Going into any project means seeing a problem that needs solving. In looking for possible solutions, you can look into customers’ feedback and competitors’ tests and experiments.
  • Streamline development with MVPs – Directing the team’s efforts to create minimum viable products or MVPs, as proof of form and function optimizes the project timeline.
  • Constructive collaboration – Lean UX is effective because of the team’s combined knowledge and expertise, so constant communication between members is vital.
  • Informed experimentation – Basing the information on factual data makes any process go by much faster, which follows that each attempt and every MVP is a learning experience. The rapid turnaround from project to user testing equips the team with the relevant data to ideate and prototype accordingly.
  • Trial, error, trial, success – Lean UX is an iterative, cyclical process that applies to all points of the project timeline, which functions through quick, repetitive research and experimentation to reach a solution and continuously optimize it, even after the project launch.

The goal is simple: Efficiently creating customer-centric products through evidence-based trials and productive experimentation. This works best for fast-paced, dedicated teams who want to focus on their users’ needs.

How the Lean UX Process Works

What are the steps to Lean UX, and how do you integrate its methods into your team’s process? In developing a product, there are some key members you must have on your roster:

  • Product managers
  • UX designers
  • Data scientists
  • Engineers

The team members regularly check in to conduct brainstorming sessions. This often starts with a benefit hypothesis, a measurable assumption of a feature that can prove beneficial to the end user. The goal following this is to verify one theory to the next. This eliminates the ambiguity and indecision within the team regarding whether one path is better than the other. The only step forward is to see if it will work. If it doesn’t, the team moves on to the proposed solution.

The overall process may adapt, but the goal remains the same: Successful entrepreneurship. Match your objectives with key results (OKRs) to track your progress and gauge your solutions' effectiveness.

Below are the iterative steps to Lean UX to guide your team:

Step #1: Brainstorm

Never underestimate the benefit of a good brainstorming session. Coming equipped with the relevant data is crucial to a productive team huddle. This makes the ideas you bring to the table genuinely measurable and based on evidence.

Suggestions don’t have to be perfect – they only need to be rooted in facts. Keep idea generation and problem-solving at the forefront of your actions.

Think of your previous experience as a customer or feedback you’ve received from clients, and collate these into an idea bank. Any product intends to solve problems, so using this data motivates your next steps. Consider what solutions have been attempted before, see how they can be improved, or work on something no other organization has tried.

Step #2: Work on Hypotheses

After a quick idea pitching session, the team deliberates and selects the most promising hypotheses, then votes on which ones to pursue. Determine if the potential result is probable and worth the work.

When creating MVPs set deliverables and milestones for working solutions. These should match the OKRs you’ve established for the project. This makes the team’s effort quantifiable. If you have the chance to test your MVP with a group of potential users, you can measure how suitable the solutions are in an environment that’s as close to a real-life situation as it could be.

Your MVPs should show a functional version of your product, but not necessarily nearly final. At the very least, your test users should know how the product will work. Rather than leaving them with more questions than answers, aim to leave them wanting to use it more.

Step #3: Check the MVPs

Once you’ve crafted the MVPs, it’s time to test how well the audience will receive them. In UX, the user’s needs always come first, so it’s vital to create products that are solutions to their problems. Who better to determine if you're on the right path and your progress is headed in the right direction than your target user?

There are various ways to test your work, both for products yet to be launched and those already in use. You can conduct A/B testing for digital platforms to see if one solution works better than the other. You can also consider early access or beta testing opportunities for your projects which your initial audience can join. If you recall receiving free trials or discount vouchers from businesses, those are also viable ways you can test product changes and new offerings to your audience.

Lean UX makes the production process more balanced, prioritizing the end user’s needs and preferences while also optimizing development for the team to ensure their efforts aim towards viable solutions rather than redundant speculation. This is useful for businesses that have optimized their eCommerce UX since 88% of customers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience. The same can be said for custom website user experience, with 74% of businesses becoming convinced of UX and how it improves sales.

The Benefits of Using Lean UX

Today’s competitive landscape means the pressure is on to create the next best thing. Lean UX methodology makes the development process more efficient as you pursue viable solutions and conduct user tests to determine their value. Here are the benefits of integrating Lean UX into your design strategy.

  • Efficient collaboration – Your team is encouraged to work together to develop a product. Each member brings a benefit hypothesis to recommend, brainstorming sustainable, quantifiable solutions. This accelerates the process by skipping unsupported suggestions.
  • Faster feedback return – The opportunity to test your MVPs with your future audience makes every solution accurate to how it will be used once you launch. Fixing issues and improving ideas is quicker than waiting until the product is released and having to go back and start nearly from scratch to work on updates.
  • Cost-effective production – By pursuing evidence-based hypotheses, the team is focused on better solutions, which saves time, energy, and funds. Concentrating on viable concepts also accelerates the development process and produces successful results.

Incorporate Lean UX principles into your design strategy and see how effective it is to start with evidence-based hypotheses in crafting your project.

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