Grokking Lean UX

I was tidying up my study last week and stumbled across my copy of the Lean UX book. It’s a pretty quick read, so I thought I’d go through it again. I’m glad I did, because something struck me that I missed the first time round.

Lean UX is not just about UX.

I was first introduced to Lean UX on a course that Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden gave in London in 2012. I was already familiar with Lean in the context of manufacturing and software development, but not so much in the context of UX. Like many developers I was familiar with a process where the Design would come down the mountain etched in granite. If there were any changes to the Design, the whole process would kick off again and we would find ourselves back at the foot of the mountain. The agile software development process existing within a larger waterfall one. I had this baggage in tow during my first experience of Lean UX. As such my initial takeaway was, “Lean UX is designers and developers working together for great good!”.

Well yes, but that’s not all …

Fast-forward to 2014 and I’ve now done a few Lean UX style projects. The team work as one to deliver something well designed and valuable for the client. No more Tablets of Design from on high. No more six-week turnarounds for design queries. Life is peachy. It is in this new context that I am re-reading the Lean UX book, and I’m seeing it in a different light.

Lean UX is not just about UX. It’s about communication.

When people ask what I do at Neo, one thing I say is that we build software collaboratively with clients rather than build it for them. But this is not quite true. We build the software at our desks, whereas we collaborate around the whiteboard. The collaborative bit is the design, and by that I mean the product design, not just the visual design. In other words design is how we communicate with the client. The client stipulates their problems and together we design solutions. We build a shared language around the product based on that collaborative design process.

I’ve come to realise that Lean UX is not just about welcoming designers to the iterative development process. Nor is it just to introduce developers to the design process. It is also about communication.

Communication is one of the most important factors on any project. Lean UX provides a rich toolset for communication. That is why Lean UX is for everyone on the project team, client included.

That is why Lean UX is so important.


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This is the third, and last, post in a series that I’m writing for Geek Mental Help Week. The first post dealt with why I find it so hard to talk about my mental health and the second dealt with how the condition I have, cyclothymia,... Continue →