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“Lean UX is used to break stalemates between the speed of Agile and the need for design in the product-development lifecycle. Our goal is not to create a deliverable, it’s to change something in the world — to create an outcome.” — Jeff Gothelf (Author of Lean U)

Agile usually refers to software development — it’s basically a workflow process that allows for quick pivots and ultimately increases efficiency. Lean manufacturing is where the methodology first gained traction in the late 1940s/early 1950s, with the introduction of seven principles about how to make manufacturing processes more efficient. Although the application of lean and agile methodologies is founded heavily in software development (Links to an external site.), the processes have been adopted across various industries. While lean and agile methodologies are sometimes practiced in integrated ways, they don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand all the time. Engineers began evolving the traditional, heavily regulated approach to something more lightweight and nimble. Agile software development was then formalized in the Agile Manifesto (Links to an external site.) published in the early 2000’s. Since then, agile has become a catch-all term that encompasses any lightweight approach to building software — for a process to be considered agile, it must focus on collaboration, be based on time-boxed work blocks (called “sprints”) and involve the incremental evolution of a product.

When a designer works within a lean UX framework, they are more focused on the outcome than they are on the deliverables. In terms of design approach, lean UX empowers designers to be highly collaborative members of a product/service team and encourages guerilla-style user testing and experiments on minimum viable product (MVP) concepts. A hallmark of lean UX is that it determines success by measuring results against a benefit hypothesis.

Agile UX aims to integrate UX practices with software development practices, though there is a lot of debate amongst the UX community about if the practices are truly compatible — especially given that agile was not originally intended to integrate design and software development. At its core, agile UX means bringing an iterative approach to the design and improvement of features that are being built — through team collaboration and the stewardship of customer feedback.

Think: Also referred as the process of ideation. It’s to identify the areas for improvement based on data, research, results and contextual observations; and come up with micro to macro problem statement(s). This process helps to identify potential improvements and hypotheses to test about your proposed solutions. From this, you will understand why the testing is important, who would be invested in it and what you expect to achieve. Determine what evidence you would need to collect to prove your hypotheses. Use this step to think carefully about if your outcomes are clearly defined.

Create: Collaborate with your team to develop new features, flows and diagrams that address the problem statement. You should only be working towards minimum marketable features (MMF). Lean UX prioritizes co-creation — sketching, white-boarding and informal conversations — to move the design forward, rather than aiming for specific deliverables. The advantage of this is to avoid making bigger mistakes in the later steps.

Test: Test solutions through research and user testing allow you to check your assumptions faster using your MVP with users.

Following a Lean UX framework is a great strategy for optimizing existing products and services since it helps streamline the design process and more easily close feedback loops.

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