Any user experience designer worth their salt takes the needs of the company they’re serving into account and adapts their approach accordingly — identifying the appropriate process, methods and tools to get the job done. This has been the case for as long as information architecture and interaction design have been in practice. Rigid methodology — doing the same exact thing every time despite the context — is, and has always been, bad practice.
Now that Eric Ries’s lean startup and Steve Blank’s customer development methodologies have gained significant traction within the startup and wider business communities, the value that user experience design practices can bring to an organization is finally being recognized.
While the techniques are being called different things (and aren’t they always?), VCs and founders are at long last starting to focus on the user as a means to make the best design decisions for their product and the best strategy decisions for their business. They aren’t spending weeks or months on in-depth, formal research because their prospective customers are easily accessible to them, and they aren’t wasting their time with heavily documented deliverables because their development team sits right next to them. But nevertheless they are still doing UX: spending focused time whiteboarding flows and key screens; prototyping solutions and testing them with users; and best of all, listening to their customers.
There’s nothing lean about it. The dictionary definition of “offering little reward, substance, or nourishment; meager” simply doesn’t hold. What they are doing — which ultimately comes down to design thinking — has tremendous reward and endless impact on the relevance of their products, the success of their companies, and the health of their egos.
“Lean UX” implies that less UX is being done. That couldn’t be further from the truth, nor is it something we should encourage. And anyway, UX shouldn’t be measured in time spent conducting activities or producing activities; it should be measured in its depth of integration in a company’s philosophy and culture.
Caring about your customers and working to make their lives better is the most honorable thing a company can do. Let’s teach these companies more and better UX methods, give them ways to adapt the methods to however they work best, and encourage them to keep the needs, attitudes, and motivations of their customers at the core of everything they do.
Some Lean UX links worth reading:
- LUXr: What is Lean UX?
- UX Booth’s Lean Startups and User Experience Design
- Cooper Design’s Lean UX, Product Stewardship, and Integrated Teams
- Jeff Gothelf’s Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business
- Josh Seiden’s Agile UX? Lean UX? Customer Development? A multiple discovery moment
- If VCs Understood UX… September 13, 2012 | 50 comments
- The Design Advisor: Why Every Startup Needs One March 20, 2013 | 4 comments
- The Work I Love March 5, 2011 | 10 comments
- If the product doesn’t work, its “user experience” doesn’t matter August 18, 2010 | 10 comments
- The User Experience Process for the Seamless iPad App February 25, 2013 | 11 comments