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Lean UX? What is it about?

What I'm going to do today is talking about Lean UX. This is a term that you might have heard before. It's used a lot in our industry, and I'm going to give you an overview of what the term means and the sort of process it describes.


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Aleksei Sereda

3 years ago | 6 min read

What I'm going to do today is talking about Lean UX. This is a term that you might have heard before. It's used a lot in our industry, and I'm going to give you an overview of what the term means and the sort of process it describes. In the final, you'll have a better understanding of what Lean UX is actually about.

Let's start thinking and talking about what lean UX is. Lean UX is a UX and design methodology that challenges the more traditional way of building and shipping products. Lean UX forces you to think about outcomes. An outcome for your business might be to increase revenue, the number of subscribers, the number of paid users on your product. The Lean UX methodology it's about filling in the gap of how you get there. You don't start off thinking about solutions or features. What you do is start off thinking about the outcome that you want to influence.

Let's take an example. One outcome you might want to influence for your business would be increasing the number of subscribers. How do we get there? Maybe that's more flexible pricing plans or add a one-month free trial. Maybe it's making the product better overall or making the tool easier to use so more people continue to use it, recommend it to their friends, and then, because of it - more people come and use it. There are all these different ways to address the problem, different ways that you can think about the problem, but the cool thing about Lean UX is that what it does - it gets you to think about the problem. I guess you to think about the outcome that you want to achieve. Then you start with a goal, work your way backwards about how you get to that goal with more traditional ways of thinking, with more traditional ways of designing and building products. What you're essentially doing is you're starting with the solution. You're saying, "okay we've got a business, because we've got a business we must have an app and the app must do XYZ because everyone else is doing it" or because we feel that it's the right way to do things. Hence, it's a methodology that gets you to think about the outcome that you're actually trying to affect and then gives you the tools and the methods of thinking to get that outcome rather than starting with solutions first.

There's a couple of other key features of Lean UX. One of the things I like that it forces you to think outside your boxes as a team. Lean UX is focused on collaboration and on the idea that everyone can do some form of design. A big part of Lean UX is ideation, and it's getting members of your team together. Do workshops with your team members. It doesn't matter who it is, maybe it's someone from marketing, sales, founder of the business or developer. You can have as many people as you want, come together, design, think and sketch out solutions or ideas for whatever the problem is that you're trying to solve. This doesn't mean that you're no longer use the UX designer, but what it means is that you empower other members of your team to get involved in the design process, to come together and do sketching, flesh out early-stage ideas for how you could achieve the goals that you want to achieve.

One of the other big things that Lean UX about - it is obtaining data and feedback as quickly as possible. From your users and from the people that you're building product for, to allow you to make decisions and change direction quickly. Again, in a more traditional way of building things, you would start with what you want to build, spend ages creating it, ages building the features. Then you'd release it to the market, get feedback. The problem with doing that is you're spending a lot of time, spending a lot of resources, building something that you don't know if people really want to use it.

With Lean UX, it's all about making small iterations and getting feedback as quickly as possible. This might start with a sketch of the dashboard of a product, so you create a sketch, discuss it with your team, get feedback on it, maybe test it with some users.

Now we're going to just run through a really simple Lean UX process.

1. The first thing you're doing in a Lean UX process is you define the problem. This is called a problem statement. You would think about the outcome that you're trying to achieve for a business or perhaps even the outcome you would want to achieve for a specific product that you already have. You would work backwards from that to inform your following actions. Maybe one of the problems is that we want to increase the number of users using this product. That is what you want to achieve. You're not thinking about features or solutions to that problem, you're just simply articulating the problem that you want to solve and then you're working back from them.

2. The next thing you'll do is you'll create assumptions. What you do is define your assumptions about how you could achieve the outcome that you stated in step one. If my outcome is to increase more subscribers to this particular product, my assumptions about how I could do that might be: make the product easier to use, give people a discount, a free trial etc. It could be even things that I can't directly influence, it could increase the marketing budget, more people come to the product landing page, or more people learn about the product. At this point, you're writing a list of assumptions about how you could achieve the outcome that you've spoken about in step one.

3. The next stage of the Lean UX process is creating hypotheses. Hypotheses are essential things that you want to try and things that you want to test to validate your assumptions. We've got our outcome - it is to increase the number of subscribers using our product. One of our assumptions about how we could do that would be to (as an example): increase the conversion rate of the landing page for the product. That's our assumption and a hypotheses statement about what we could test it. It might be something like "my hypothesis is if I increase the size of the button on the landing page then that would actually increase more subscribers to the product" or "if I change the copy on the landing page", "if I redesign the landing page", "if I made the landing page work better on smaller screen devices" etc. Your hypotheses are essentially just statements of things you would like to test to try and validate your assumptions.

4. After it, you will look for a test and learn more about what you're doing. If that's impacting your business and if that's making a difference. For example, you have a landing page, change the design of it. Then you want to look at the metrics for that landing page. You might look at bounce rate, conversion rate, amount of traffic coming to the page (just as an example), and then you could AB compare how the page was previously, how the page is now and contrast the two. You can see if your efforts are making a difference. You can then feed that learning back into the start of the process, use that learning to validate your assumptions. After you go through that whole process, you've changed the design of the landing page, measuring whether the design is having an impact or not and if it is having an impact, then excellent problem solved. Let's move on to another assumption, look at something else we can do to increase subscribers even more. If the landing page isn't having any impact and your design changes aren't making any difference it's not a bad thing - you've just proved to yourself that that particular thing doesn't make a difference so okay "I've got all these other assumptions that I want to test, let's look at these, maybe it's driving more traffic to the landing page".

This is the cool thing about Lean UX. It's just a very quick, very agile way. You become curious, start asking questions about your product, start thinking about ways to test your hypothesis and answer those questions to make the product better. The Lean UX process is focused on outcomes, not deliverables, it's about collaboration, data, learning, feeding that data and learning into your decision-making process rather than thinking you have all the answers.

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