- Early customer validation over releasing products with unknown end-user value
- Collaborative design over designing on an island
- Solving user problems over designing the next “cool” feature
- Measuring KPIs over undefined success metrics
- Applying appropriate tools over following a rigid plan
- Nimble design over heavy wireframes, comps or specs
As stated in the Agile Manifesto, “While there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”
How The Lean UX Manifesto Works
Let’s take each of these in turn and see how we can follow the principles of lean UX.
Early Customer Validation Over Releasing Products With Unknown User Value
What if you worked at a company where usability testing just wasn’t done? Unfortunately, this is the sad state in which many of our fellow UX practitioners find themselves. How, then, do they follow the principles of lean UX?
With usability testing, we seek customer validation or early failure. Customer validation may be sought through other means as well. For example, does your company gather feedback from users? If that feedback is circulated, are you on the list of people who receive it?
Here are other sources of learning about customer needs:
- Customer service representatives
Their focus is on helping customers overcome experience issues. Try to speak to them regularly. They are likely documenting their calls, so see whether you can create some system for tagging experience issues that you can follow up on.
- Sales representatives
This is another group that is focused on the customer. They will understand what customer problems are out there to be solved. They’ll also know which features are important and which innovations customers want.
- Website search data
This is an invaluable source of customer desires. Search data can uncover website navigation problems and features or problems that customers are looking for.
Salespeople and customer service representatives are great sources of learning about customer needs. (Image: Renato Ganoza)
Collaborative Design Over Designing on an Island
Design should not be a solo exercise. Being a design team of one is no excuse. Anthony uses the design studio process and adopt the role of facilitator. Gather team members who own a piece of the project, and host a design studio workshop. Include at least the following people (adjusting to suit your unique organization):
- Domain owner
Your subject matter expert
- Requirements Owner
A business analyst or the person who gathers and writes the requirements
- Data provider
A data analyst on hand who is familiar with the analytics and can pull the info you need
- Technology owner
A developer, someone who understands the technology constraints and design patterns
- Product or business owner
A product manager or the person who owns this piece of business
The UX or visual designer or person who owns the design and can facilitate the design studio
The usability analyst or UX researcher or person who owns customer development and persona creation
Solving User Problems Over Designing the Next Cool Feature
When you’re handed a requirements document, a thought-out solution, a feature, a brief or whatever artifact you receive to inform your work, begin by asking, “What problem are we trying to solve?” Ideally, you should clearly understand the customer’s problem. Design is problem-solving, so if you don’t know the problem, you can’t design a solution. If you do this enough, then the stakeholders will understand that you’re more than just a wireframe jockey. You’re a professional problem-solver with a system for creating solutions that make sense.
Measuring KPIs Over Undefined Success Metrics
You can’t measure success if you aren’t… er, measuring. Avoid vanity metrics. Anthony loves Dave McClure’s pirate metrics:
Users come to the website from various channels.
Users enjoy their first visit (a “happy” user experience).
Users come back, visiting multiple times.
Users like the product enough to refer others.
Users conduct some monetization behavior.
Applying Appropriate Tools Over Following a Rigid Plan
Lean UX should be a flexible process. As Anthony started to develop the process steps for one cycle, he found himself overwhelmed with the number of tools being recommended. Anthony’s advice, similar to what he had said when creating a minimum viable product, is to apply the minimum tools required to get you to “pivot” or “persevere.”
Here are a few tools that Anthony found useful (not an exhaustive list):
- provisional personas, right sized for the effort;
- persona map (which we learned from Menlo Innovations);
- assumptions, with the riskiest identified;
- design studio;
- paper prototyping in early stages;
- digital prototyping (HTML preferred) in later stages;
- guerilla design assessment (a better name for usability testing);
- co-location wherever possible.
The design studio method is popular for collaborative design. (Image: visualpun.ch)
Everything else should be applied as it makes sense. For example, if more customer development is needed, then take the time to interview as a team and to internalize customer needs. The lean startup world has no shortage of tools. Use only the ones that make sense to your project and that get you to a validated solution faster.
Nimble Design Over Heavy Wireframes, Comps or Specs
The goal is to release a product. Once it’s released, users won’t interact with the wireframes or requirements document as part of the product. They will interact with the product itself. So, try to spend less time on your design artifacts.
How can you lighten your wireframes?
- Lighter annotations and more presentation
Anthony found that if I take the time to present my unfinished wireframes to stakeholders, He would get valuable feedback sooner and save time.
If developers, quality assurance testers and business analysts are involved in the design, then they will share ownership and internalize the annotations. When this happens, you can pass off sketches as wireframes because team members will already understand the interactions.
- Paper prototypes
These serve a dual purpose. They get you to design validation (i.e. usability testing) sooner, but they also demonstrate the interactions. No need to write detailed wire annotations if the user can see the interactions firsthand.
It’s All About Principle-Driven Design
This all boils down to something that I call principle-driven design. As stated, some lean UX is better than none, so applying these principles as best you can will get you to customer-validated, early-failure solutions more quickly. Rules are for practitioners who don’t really know the value of this process, while principles demand wisdom and maturity.
By allowing principles to drive you, you’ll find that you’re more nimble, reasonable and collaborative. Really, you’ll be overall better at getting to solutions. This will please your stakeholders and team members from other disciplines (development, visual design, business, etc.). To quote the late Stephen Covey:
“There are three constants in life: change, choice and principles.”
 Anthony Viviano, Ajay Revels and Ha Phan, The Lean UX Manifesto, http://www.leanuxmanifesto.com/.
 Anthony Viviano, The Lean UX Manifesto: Principle-Driven Design, Smashing magazine, January 8, 2014, http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/01/08/lean-ux-manifesto-principle-driven-design/.