07/09/2013 - No Comments!

Better Product Definition with Lean UX & Design Thinking

In his webcast, Better Product Definition with Lean UX & Design Thinking, Eric Ries - creator of lean startup - explained how better up front definition of your product can benefit a lean design environment. Jeff Gothelf - a designer & Agile practitioner - joined the webinar for some early Q & A and background on this new thought process. These are my notes from their webcast.


Inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development theories, Lean UX is the practice of bringing the true nature of a product to light faster, in a collaborative, cross-functional way with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on a shared understanding of the actual experience being designed.

  • The idea of LEAN comes from the manufacturing industry, specifically Toyota's production systems. It is a technique to eliminate waste, making sure that all products are high quality from the beginning of production.
  • In a traditional LEAN environment, you could assume to know what the customer wanted, as improvements were introduced incrementally - expanding upon existing norms. Manufacturing is a fairly predictable market.
  • Today's startups introduce new products to the market, and unfortunately cannot benefit from such assumptions. Many startups are trying to disupt larger, established industries with wildly new products.
  • The idea of LEAN UX is to apply the techniques of LEAN manufacturing to today's environment of extreme uncertainty.
  • Determine what to build first, then build that thing up more efficiently.

The iterative process is about how quickly your team can learn; not how many customers you can get.

  • We need to define success outside of features. Success needs to relate back to some target or goal, based on metrics in a businesss sense.
  • People are inherently bad at imagining the products that they want, that's our job! You should experiment with customers to better find out what they may want; even if they don't know that they want it (yet).
  • The difference between complexity & quality is in the eye of the customers, you won't know what they want without testing or asking them to interact with your ideas directly.
  • Vanity metrics can give you a false imoression of user demand for your product. You need more specific analytics than users and pageviews to ensure there is a need for your software. What type of specific value is it providing to users?

Product requirements are actually assumptions. These assumptions need to be tested in order to be validated.

  • Product managers tend to come up with these assumptions, then lead teams to build software up around them.
  • Instead, you want to be an experimenter. Have quick, iterative failures. Get the wrong ideas out of the way quickly and early. Work with paper and pencils for as long as possible before moving forward with any code.
  • Use design thinking to help you think about creative methods for testing product ideas.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. ---Tim Brown, president and CEO

  • Always prioritize learning over growth. Identify which ideas provide the best solutions, then scale that solution.
  • Many companies currently manage output. Instead, they need to focus on outcome and not task teams with responsibility for their impact.
  • A successful cross-functional teams will; bring perspective to the product definition process from all disciplines, possess increased empathy for the user, understand the "why" behind every initiative & learn more, faster, by sharing the discovery and creation process.

In conclusion, Lean UX is all about the need to shift the way we work. Always remember that requirements are assumptions, focus on outcomes, work together to come up with ideas, then test those ideas ruthlessly.

The slides for this great webcast presentation can be found here. Be sure to follow Eric Reis @ericries and Jeff Gothelf @jboogie on Twitter for more insights on this exciting subject.