Bussolini / Design

What is Lean Design?

A look into Lean Startup Method and Lean UI / UX Design.

Lean Startup Method is a book written by Eric Ries that applies lean methodologies within product design cycles. Developed from his experience as a startup advisor, employee, and founder he sought to create an easier way to measure and align user expectation’s with solutions. After the failure of his first startup Eric recognized the issue was overlooking the wants of their target users, while spending too much time focusing on their initial product launch. Afterwards he saw another large and expensive product launch fail and discovered the error in both instances as

“working forward from the technology instead of working backward from the business results you’re trying to achieve.” (1)

Ries found in order to build a great company one must begin with a focus on users in the form of research and discovery. Building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and testing and iterating quickly results in less waste and better product alignment in the market. Eric developed what he calls the “five whys” to further stress the importance of understanding the placement of the product before any design work is ever done. 

By combining user’s expectations with a solution Eric sought to reduce the amount of work that isn’t usable in final delivery or would test poorly by users. Eric inspired lean methodologies primarily in areas like user interface and experience design by taking a similar approach to defining user’s expectations and working backward to achieve a product solution.

In Lean UX the focus is on the experience under design and is less focused on final deliverables than traditional UX. It requires a greater level of collaboration within a cross-functional team, and similar to Lean Startup is focused on obtaining feedback early and often to iterate quickly on new decisions. (2)

The nature of Agile is to work in rapid, iterative cycles and Lean UX mimics this format to ensure generated data can be applied in each iteration. Lean methodologies compliment Agile software development by working in parallel to assemble and produce necessary elements for production, with little waste on producing elements that aren’t used in final production or alter user’s perception in a negative way. 

By applying Lean methodologies to your product design cycles you can expect to speed up innovation, have a stronger degree of certainty with usability, and ensure what is created is inline with user’s expectations of your product. This gives design and development the ability to iterate and pivot quickly, providing organizations the ability to move fast with confidence. It aligns every business sector to achieve a universal goal and promotes cross-collaboration through knowledge sharing. By multiplying business impact and aligning it to user’s expectations it provides a clear path for a successful product to grow. The focus of Lean methodologies is to discover this recipe early and often, and continue to promote that value to users in a direct way. 

Lean Startup Method and Lean UI / UX design also aligns business objectives with a product solution in parallel. You’re also ensuring what you build is inline with user’s expectations, and will be received well at launch and into the first iterations of the product. From a resource point of view Lean has helped me as a designer to instill business logic within design so seamlessly that the experience takes over and engages the user. This is a powerful tool in product design since it often means the ability for a user to be successful or have pain points within product cycles. I use Lean methodologies in all of my work as a way to collaborate and retain the best designs that are often used in final production. It alleviates the need to have a waterfall approach to product development, which for early stage startups is a tough gamble considering the flexibility agile provides. Instead of building all elements before production Lean allows companies to have insight before a product launch that not only helps in the initial launch, but provides a format for deliverables needed to sustain an Agile setting. The concept of testing early and often is commonly overlooked in larger product design cycles, and is one foundational element that should be a focus for companies to promote. Lean methodologies do a great job at stressing the importance of collaboration, not only within a company, but with users as well.