I finally got round to reading Lean UX – Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience on an 11 hour flight; which is enough time to re-read the book a few times as its only (a lean) 124 pages. The book provides great insight for mapping previous project experiences onto the Lean methodology, and to fine tune methods for future and current projects. On the last page of the book the authors make the following conclusion about Lean UX:
… it blends the best interaction design techniques with the scientific method …
This is important, because it is the part people don’t get about UX, even some describing themselves as UX professionals. From Wikipedia:
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
The key concept here is correcting and integrating previous knowledge. This is the point of experimentation and of Lean UX.
The aim is to establish shared understanding of a thing (by repetition) across a team or organisation by involving everyone in the experimentation process. And creating shared understanding is not as easy as may be assumed; in fact it can be very hard.
So what? Well, this is significant when you consider the extreme alternative of Lean UX – ‘blind design’. A product owner in a large financial app development organisation once told me that, ‘we don’t do user testing because we get feedback from users on the app stores after launch.’ This is classic ‘blind design’.1
The scientific method is not readily understood by those entering the UX field from creative (where the cult of the rock-star designer prevails) or non-science/research backgrounds. So if someone asks me, “What is UX?”, this is my response.
And then I’ll recommend this book.
1. I often hear that some products cannot be tested with users because there is a fear that ideas or IP may be stolen. I’m then reminded of what Ash Maurya writes in Running Lean: The first realisation early on was that building in stealth is a really bad idea. There is a fear, especially common among first-time entrepreneurs, that their great idea will be stolen by someone else. The truth is twofold: first, most people are not able to visualize the potential of an idea at such an early stage, and second (and more importantly), they won’t care. For any organisation attempting to incubate an agile start-up culture this is good advice.