Tips for keeping User Experience lean

Team Team

There are a huge number of buzzwords, acronyms and trendy methods around in our great industry, the title of this article is a case in point. At Red Badger we have started to collate some of them into a glossary and we have already exceeded 20 different processes or methods for what amounts to ‘getting shit done’. 

Sometimes these methods and techniques are credited with being modern and new but normally they are simply a rehash of previous ideas and methods based on years of historic research and study. Scholars come up with theories and methods, they become adopted and then adapted - and repeat.

Let’s take UX design as an example. Although User Experience as an explicit discipline has only been around for 25 years or so, it’s roots go back much further. 1957 was when the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society was formed. It is a group committed to “the discovery and exchange of knowledge concerning the characteristics of human beings that are applicable to the design of systems and devices of all kinds”. Sound familiar?

Frequently we come across organisations who have Agile development teams with talented pools of designers who have not had a chance or the space to get to grips with the implications of working Lean. More often than not they have read all the books and are concerned with how to implement what they have read. The focus should not be on doing everything by the book if it isn't necessary, but in delivering value. The reduction of waste in the process. That is how we work - by offering maximum value and great quality. It's also how we create multi-award winning websites that delight our clients, their customers and generate significant return on investment.

So how do we integrate user experience design into a fast paced, lean, multi-disciplined team?

1/ Build a shared understanding

Jeff Gothelf says that Shared Understanding is the currency of Lean UX. Do what you need to do to get a shared understanding. Collaborate, pin up your thinking, sketches, notes, discuss around the project board every morning, during the day, whenever you can. Involve the team in as much of the following points as possible.

2/ Keep ideation rough and fast

Do not to spend ages working on ideas that might not work. Keep it loose so that people can understand the idea is not final and can be open to interpretation. Keeping it rough and fast means you do not get too attached to your ideas and if required you can discard them easily.

3/ Check your assumptions - research and test

Designs should be based on your knowledge of the problem. Research, check your assumptions and test your ideas on real people. Use quantitative and qualitative methods. Some feedback is better than no feedback but make sure you use your data to inform, not dictate your decisions.

4/ Be humble and ask questions

If something is unclear then ask. Speak to the client, or other team members. Don’t fall into the trap of automatically thinking that your way as the designer is the best way.

5/ Make it a team sport

Everyone is a designer, well at least everyone likes to have an influence on design, harness this. Allow people to have their say, input into the problem. Run sketching sessions with the whole team if possible. Include the client in this. It helps to build shared understanding and allows you to quickly understand the business and technical constraints on a problem if everyone is present.

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If you are doing all these things there are no promises about the output, but you should find that you can start to work with more freedom and produce more ideas at a greater quality, furthermore, the ideas will have already got team buy in. Time selling in design ideas and presenting the client will be reduced and the overall productivity of the team will increase.

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