Lean UX is a term that has gained increasing popularity in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. Collaborative, fast, results-oriented—sign me up! Now, what exactly is Lean UX and how is it used in day-to-day business?
What is Lean UX?
“Lean” as a concept is nothing new. It has been used in manufacturing for decades. At its core, “lean” refers to trimming the waste in a process to see quicker results in an iterative fashion. The backbone to making this process work is collaboration. Just as lean manufacturing trims the waste of unnecessary steps, Lean UX is able to cut down on non-value add documentation by having cross-functional teams of designers, product managers, and business owners collaborate to create a product that is useful and viable. The basic process is a cycle of “Think, Create, and Validate.”
Instead of starting with wireframes or the “how”, Lean UX starts with the “why” to effectively tackle a problem and ends with a hypothesis. Starting with “why” allows the team to focus on the end user and why they are building a solution. It allows them to ask questions such as, “Why is the customer buying, or more importantly, not buying this product from us?” Answering these questions allows us to make educated assumptions based on customer data and research, and to build a hypothesis which can then be tested.
Let’s look at a scenario where we have seen an overall decline in orders and fewer customers are buying a product. When you look at the data, you find that customers are abandoning the website during the checkout process and not completing transactions. You brainstorm ideas and test the checkout process. Based on the analysis, you develop the following hypothesis: “Having a progress bar at the top of the screen will help provide transparency so more customers complete a purchase, which the data shows could result in a 20 percent increase in order conversion.” This process provides you with a hypothesis that can be tested.
A common mistake when creating a product is aiming to create the “perfect” product with all the bells and whistles. This often results in a lengthy, time-consuming development cycle and wasted investment on features that are not valuable to the customer. The Pareto principle is helpful when deciding which features are “critical” versus “nice to have.” The Pareto principle states that 20 percent of the changes drive 80 percent of the outcome; therefore, by focusing on the main use cases, most of the end-user needs will be met and the impact (e.g. sales) will still be realized. Keeping this in mind helps cut down on the time wasted upfront on edge cases that don’t drive most of the impact and helps keep the focus on the minimum viable product (MVP).
For example, to test the hypothesis from the “Think” stage, you build the simplest set of features needed to test the hypothesis, such as a basic functional progress bar to see if it leads to increased order conversion; this is your MVP. Now that you have established why you are designing a product and what you are designing, you can begin developing wireframes and testable prototypes.
In the “Validate” stage, you can take your wireframes or clickable prototypes and test them with your user base. Some common testing methods include A/B testing to test 2 or more variants of a page, click tests to better understand where users click on a page, and usability testing to get user feedback and understand any points of confusion about the product. Testing does not need to include a large group and can be done with as few as three to five people; however, the test group must be representative of your end users or customers. These tests will prove or disprove your hypothesis and provide additional insight into why users interact with your products the way they do. This ultimately provides insights into additional improvements needed to take your product from an idea to a viable solution that customers will use.
Lean UX is a shift from the traditional design flow and can be a powerful tool that enables companies to move quickly and iteratively to see results. “The process encourages designers and product owners to start with the “why” to drive problem-solving, minimize wasted time and investment, and home in on what makes customers act.”
About Guest Blogger Aditi Kulkarni
Aditi is a big picturethinker, storyteller, and problem solver using empathetic design to plan and create intuitive solutions that delight and entice the end user. She has a bachelors in materials engineering from Carnegie Mellon and an MBA from Georgetown. Aditi has over 10 years of experience helping organizations navigate and innovate in this age of acceleration and disruption, and drive sustainability and growth through empathetic design thinking. Aditi blends user-centered design with business knowledge to help clients capitalize on emerging next-generation technologies to deliver effective digital experiences, drive end-user adoption, and promote stakeholder buy-in.
Her professional interests and expertise include user experience design, design thinking facilitation, rapid prototyping, product management, and program management in an agile environment.
Kulkarni has an MBA from Georgetown and a B.S. in Engineering from Carnegie Mellon.