February 25, 2018

Lean UX - When In Doubt, Test It Out!

Lean UX FunnelSoftware applications and websites fail because they do not incorporate enough customer feedback into their products. You think you know, but do you know you know? There are user experience (UX) tools that when put in action can get your whole team involved in design, allow you to change gears quickly, and gather user feedback to increase the quality of your products. How do you do this? What steps can you take to get your organization moving in this direction? There are seven steps that I recently shared at World Information Architecture Day that you can get you there.

The book Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden was released in 2013 and made a fundamental shift in the way UX and product development are approached. Lean UX was inspired from 2011 book The Lean Startup by Eric Reis that stressed gathering customer feedback - live in production. Then Lean UX stated that you get feedback from customers prior to development by moving the time you spend on initial research and put it right to testing. The Agile Methodology was created by developers and did not account for interactive design. Now with Lean UX, the Agile process has a way to  accomplish interactive design centered around user feedback and scientific method. As a matter of fact, in 2017 SAFe built Lean UX into the most recent edition of the framework heightening its relevance.

Now that you understand the origin, let's dive into how you build a culture of usability testing at your organization and leverage Lean UX to drive it! The key to its success is that you need to have a top down and a bottom up approach. Let's explore each tip into more detail.

Strategic Approaches (Top Down)
These top three tips focus on high level tips that encourage a mind set toward usability testing.

1. Find an executive champion
According to Eric Shaffer in the book Institutionalization of UX, you need to find an executive that will represent UX at an upper level and have a budget to support it.

2. Setup internal guideline site
Nielsen Norman Group stresses that having a design system keeps your organization on the same page and reduces rework. This system encourages governance, consistency, central design hub, and team communication.

3. Shift mindset to outcomes
The mantra of Lean UX is moving away from rushing to get something out the door to knowing the product your getting out the door is something the customer needs. Deadlines are needed, but be prepared and open to rework. Usability testing can give you the answers you need.

Tactical Approaches (Bottom Up)
These four tips focus on the three-step Lean UX process of think, make, and check.  

4. Risk assessment / prioritize UX work
Lean UX offers an assumption worksheet that gives you a tool to prioritize where you should be focusing your usability testing. You can't testing everything so prioritize what you need to check.

5. Apply scientific method
Come up with a question, develop a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, review it, and report the results. The core of Lean UX is usability testing and this method makes it fun.

6. Use UCD & tools at right time
User Centered Design (UCD) is an international standard for developing products. Everyone has their own branded design process, but it all derives from UCD. The key to Lean UX is knowing when it makes sense to use tools like sketching, interviews, shadowing users, surveys, analytics, and usability testing within UCD.

7. Build team synergy
Create a culture of UX Champs, make a testing schedule, focus on team communication, and involve the team in all UX activities. Educate your team on about UCD so they understand what steps you are taking then you can build a group of UX Champions. However, you will need to attend all meetings, and get involved in all aspects of communication to be apart of the team. Then, you need to involve the team in all the UX activities like sketch sessions, interviews, and usability testing so everyone is on the same page. The testing schedule rallies the team around checking the design with customer feedback and establishes a routine.

Lean UX can be integrated into your business and move you toward a regular usability testing schedule. Teams need to move away from thinking they know what the customer needs to knowing what the customer needs and usability testing is the key to get you the answers. When in doubt, test it out! Contact me with questions.

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Marc A. Majers

User experience leader, author, and DJ that is collaborative in each moment to inspire continual learning and positive feelings
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