Get Your Organization in Shape with Lean UX

Posted 8/2/2014 1:54 AM by Michael Nelson and Curtis Lauterbach

To learn more about designing for the user experience and working in teams, we read Lean UX-Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden. It discusses a new method of efficiently executing UX by collaborating with the whole team throughout the entire project. With the concepts learned from this book, we saw how we could better work with the team, quickly solve issues, and enhance product quality. In this article, we discuss the major points made in each chapter.

Chapter 1: Why use Lean UX?

Lean UX is a new method of project development in which teams collaborate on every project aspect. It’s more efficient than the waterfall method as it shortens the projects’ development time, identifies issues from the entire team, and helps make faster changes before presenting the product to the client.

Chapter 2: Principles

Lean UX’s mission is to provide users with a great experience in the least amount of time with as few issues as possible. It accomplishes this mission by employing the following four concepts:

  1. Put individuals and interactions over processes and tools – When using Lean UX, all team members openly discuss the major aspects of the project and solve issues together before the design is presented to clients.
  2. Use software over documentation - To solve issues efficiently, it is important to create a version of the project early in the process.
  3. Collaborate over negotiations – Teams should focus on the project with open and frequent collaboration. This can reduce the need for heavy documentation and potentially make the project’s development more efficient.
  4. Be proactive over reactive - The team must be open to discussions, even if it means the design is completely redone.

Chapter 3: Outcomes

Lean UX gets teams working together by changing the concept of problem solving. All work is done towards accomplishing an outcome that meets the client’s needs. Teams should focus on outcomes with the following process:

  1. Assumptions – States what the team believes to be true about different aspects of the project.
  2. Hypothesis – States what the team believes will happen when a specific feature is added to a design to meet a user goal, and what constitutes success based on specific metrics.
  3. Outcomes - Specific requirements that ensure the product has met the user’s needs. An example is a Smartphone application that reduces the time to make an event on a calendar versus the leading competition. An outcome might be a 25% reduction in time to complete this task.
  4. Personas – A snapshot of the model users. There should be one persona for each user group to envision the product’s use for that group.
  5. Features - Specific elements which assist in driving the product’s development. An example is a pop-up calendar that allows users to select the date instead of manually typing it in.

Chapter 4-Collaborative Design

Designing is one of the main aspects in product development. To be effective, collaboration is key. The project’s purpose should be identified, followed by team members sketching ideas with a critique session. After deliberation, outcomes are decided upon and the team begins creating designs with constant collaboration. During these meetings, a style guide can be created that depicts the format of all product elements, to assist in keeping designs streamlined later in the process.

Chapter 5-MVPs and Experiments

Collaborating to create a product from one idea is half the battle. Ensuring that it meets the user’s needs is the other, which can be accomplished through usability testing. Testing is done by using Minimal Viable Products (MVPs), which are the smallest aspect of the design which can be tested. An example is testing the user’s ability to locate and use a calendar button to make events. The results can determine if the design’s layout provides efficient use. The MVP can be tested with a wide range of prototyping tools, each with pros and cons.

Chapter 6-Research

In lean UX, research is done throughout the process. Testing often allows for collaboration and potential issues to be identified, encourages open discussion, helps decrease the team’s workload, and produces quality projects by identifying issues early.

Research is done best by running three users each week on whatever MVP your team is working on. The testing environment does not have to be elaborate; a simple quiet room with the product, recording equipment, and network connection are all that is needed. When reviewing results, it is important to keep an eye out for patterns, outliers, and to verify results with others. So what can you test? Depending on what information the team needs, you can test anything the team has (sketches, wire frames, mockups, etc.).

Chapter 7-Agile

Agile is the vehicle that drives lean UX by setting up a protocol for completing MVPs. Teams work in two week intervals called sprints, where a MVP is delivered at the end of the sprint. Designers produce designs while developers generate programs. The sprint process begins with sketching and brainstorming, followed by creating focus areas (stories), and finally testing the product with actual users.

It is important to get management involved in this process, as they can assist in eliminating issues. To keep management and those impacted by your work well informed, let them know the current project status, results of any testing, and the next steps in the project all while focusing on the progress the team has made.

Chapter 8-Organizational Shifts

Organization's must foster an atmosphere of collaboration and involvement. When team members are free to share their talents it improves the overall project and builds comradery. Teams should be large enough to have one person with a skill set from each of the required areas (development, design, etc.), but small enough so they can collaborate efficiently. The authors use the two pizza rule. If it takes more than two pizzas to make a meal for your team, then the team is too big.


Lean UX was an easy read and discussed the content and best industry practices with real world examples. By using the concepts throughout the book, your organization can increase efficiency, and produce higher quality products. We believe that Lean UX should be on every UX student’s reading list and encourage those already in the fields of design, development, and marketing to read the book and incorporate its concepts.

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