In traditional user experience design, one typically relies on the detailed descriptions of deliverables to find a solution to the problem.
However, the recent emergence and popularity of the agile development methodology (i.e. rapid iteration cycles) has led to the development of the ‘lean user experience’ or the Lean UX design methodology — the topic of this article.
The Lean UX design methodology borrows considerably from the core tenets of the Agile Software Development methodology:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
We will discuss each of these core concepts and how they can be used to develop great user experiences in this tutorial.
Individuals and interactions form the core of the lean UX design philosophy. To kick off the process, we hold a workshop to come up with a set of assumptions, based on the principles of design thinking (as discussed in the previous tutorial). This workshop should be attended by the entire team that is responsible for this project.
The goal of this workshop is for members of your team to empathize with their users and really understand their needs. Only by putting themselves in their users shoes can they create a compelling experience. Important questions to ask are:
- Who are our users?
- Why will users want to use our product?
- When will users want to use our product?
- Which situations are best suited for the use of our product?
- Why will users value our product over others'?
- What are the biggest risks to the delivery of our product?
Posing these questions produces numerous answers, each of which will form the basis of our assumptions. If there are too many assumptions, it would be best to prioritise them based on how much impact they have on the eventual success of the project if they turn out to be invalid. This prioritised list of assumptions will be fundamental to the next step in the Lean UX process — forming the hypotheses that we can collaboratively test with our targeted customer base.
Forming a hypothesis and then testing it in the world of Lean UX is absolutely essential — it forms the basis of the data-gathering process. Here's a good format to follow to quickly and effortlessly create testable hypotheses:
State a belief, elaborate on its importance, state the expected result, and then elucidate the evidence needed to prove the hypothesis.
Remember, the last part of this hypothesis format is crucial — if the hypothesis cannot be proved, then the data collection exercise was futile.
Once we have a set of hypotheses to test, we can finally starting developing working software that will allow us to gather feedback. The software that one develops at this stage is known as the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.
The MVP is the most basic version of the concept that incorporates all the hypotheses crafted in the previous step. The hypotheses are embedded in the MVP and the data collected during the user research process will inform us which of the hypotheses are valid and in turn which assumptions were valid.
Iterating quickly in this way, by testing your hypotheses through real usability tests on consumers allows your team to respond to any changes that need to be made in the initial assumptions. In order to respond to any changes, we need to go back with the gathered data to the workshopping stage and go over the above steps once again. This is the gist of the Lean UX process.
In short, the Lean UX method is workshopping assumptions, crafting hypotheses, allowing potential customers to test these in the form of MVPs, and then incorporating the gathered data into subsequent iterations. The greatest possible number of assumptions are first gathered by invoking broader participation from the team. These assumptions flow into the hypothesis-crafting stage, which are then incorporated into the MVP, which in turn is tested by a sample of the target customer-base. The data gathered is then cycled back to the workshopping stage to review the assumptions and the cycle is repeated until the team is satisfied with the product and deems it ready to ship. In this manner, the Lean UX Method allows for product teams to implement a data-driven process (that even ropes in a sample of end-users) to develop and ship the best possible product.