Building a Startup? Lean UX Is Your Best Friend
If you’re a startup like us, you may struggle with user experience. Some of the questions that may plague you include:
- How many channels should you use to reach customers?
- What kinds of experiences do customers expect within those channels?
- What kinds of experiences do customers expect from the product or service you offer?
Below we explore a philosophy we use to answer these questions that every startup should keep in mind: Lean UX.
What Is Lean UX?
Recently championed by Jeff Gothelf, Lean UX is an approach that tries to move as efficiently as possible through the design process. Rather than spend months doing user research, prototyping, and testing, Lean UX dictates that you do just enough at each stage to attain a minimum viable solution and then move on.
How Is Lean UX Different Than Regular UX?
We get this question a lot from people in the technology sector. UX is still an emerging field. Do we really need a paradigm shift? According to thought leaders like Jeff we do. As he has famously said, at some point UX became a “deliverables business” in which designers churn out an endless supply of documents, none of which necessarily move the design process forward.
A popular website for UX practitioners currently lists 32 distinct UX methods and deliverables. And don’t get us wrong: those deliverables are all useful, just not in the same project.
More than just cutting down on deliverables, however, in their book Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience, Jeff and his co-author Josh Seiden introduce the principle of “continuous discovery” to the UX process:
Continuous discovery is the ongoing process of engaging the customer during the design and development process… The goal is to understand what the users are doing with your products and why they are doing it. Research is done on frequent and regular schedules. Research involves the entire team.
Lean UX is about staying abreast of what you customers want and delivering experiences to them before they even have to ask for them.
Beyond UX: Remove Waste, Experiment, Collaborate
Beyond developing experiences for digital products and services, Lean UX is a philosophy that can apply to any business. It holds that three main principles should be observed at all times:
- Remove Waste: “Work smarter, not harder,” the saying goes. Lean UX is not about doing more with less. It’s about doing only what’s necessary to achieve goals. If you find yourself working harder every week at your business and receiving less of a return on that effort, look for areas where your productivity is being sapped by tasks that are high-effort and low-yield. De-prioritize those tasks for activities that are low-effort and high-yield.
- Experiment: When you’re first building a business, it’s easy to hunker down and just keep doing the same stuff over and over again hoping for a better result. Smaller organizations don’t have the luxury of doing that. We need to try different solutions until something sticks, even if that takes a lot of trial and error. It’s better to put more effort into trying something new than to put continual effort into tasks that have yet to produce results.
- Collaborate: It can also be easy to feel like a lone wolf when you first start a business, but getting fresh ideas for problems you’re trying to solve are essential if you are to adapt and grow as an organization. Rather than looking for competitors, try to find partners. Rather than hunt after one-of buyers, look for people who are going to be repeat customers. Rather than defining your brand in opposition to others, look for natural niches you can fit into within your current marketplace.
We live and breathe these principles every day and have found them to be incredibly useful in all aspects of our business. As small business owners, startup founders, and really any kind of professional, we could all stand to be less wasteful, more playful, and more collaborative in what we do.
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