Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams | 2nd Edition
Author: Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
Recommended by: Stephanie Nagy, Software Developer & High-Tech Anthropologist®
Menlo has a deep understanding of agile workflows and UX principles, so I thought that Lean UX might be a great read to find out more about how other companies bring these two concepts together. This book did not disappoint. Author Jeff Gothelf calls the reader to “get out of the deliverables business” and “return our focus where it belongs, enlisting the whole corporation in its most urgent task: delighting customers.”
Lean UX involves the entire team in design, not just UX specialists. Developers, designers, product managers, QA, and marketers come together in a cross-functional collaboration. This team is then tasked with being problem focused, instead of implementing a set of features. They meet together to brainstorm, consider design, and eventually may follow an agile process of estimating and planning together as well. Emphasis is placed on giving permission to fail and fostering a spirit of experimentation and creativity.
Testing is also a team effort. Lean UX recommends testing often, allowing all members of the team to observe and participate, and to let testing drive the product. Some companies have a practice of testing every week and continually refining their product after meeting with users. They are focused on questions such as “Is there a need for the solution I’m designing? Is there value in the solution and features I’m offering? Is my solution usable?” Using low fidelity paper prototyping and testing often allows for a fast turnaround with testing results.
To avoid big design up front, tasks are broken down into smaller pieces to fit in agile iterations and allow for the evolution of the product instead of tying it to an immutable design document thrown over the fence from the design team to the developers. Lean UX recommended a living design system that can act as a reference for the entire project team. This system can include code snippets for the development team and be updated continually as designs change so that the team has a working repository for design on a project.
Lean UX recognizes the challenges inherent in integrating UX with agile development. It is common for agile teams to fall into a pattern of mini-waterfall design. The design team works in shorter iterations, but still hands off their designs to the development team without bringing the entire team together to design features in the same iteration that they are being developed. One suggestion to mitigate waterfalls is to have a mini-design sprint before regular sprints start.
I enjoyed reading about ways that other companies are solving the same problems we solve at Menlo. My favorite piece of advice from the book is to “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” I believe that the trend to move toward solving problems is a winning strategy for agile businesses today.
Get a copy for yourself here!