When failure is an option

Lean UX transforms the way you bring a digital product to market. Launch and learn, urges Jon Warden, Haymarket’s Head of Product & User Experience

For any brand or organisation looking to launch a new website, mobile site or app, User Experience – or UX – Design has become a vital part of the marketing mix. Its complex blend of art and science originates from the recognition that getting your target audiences to tell you what they need before you start to build a product for them eliminates a lot of wasted time, expense and unnecessary heartache.

 

The roots of UX are deeply seated in psychology and human interaction principles. It’s how a user interacts with the offering, and their emotional perception, both good and bad. And, done properly, it means a much greater chance of success.

 

Now the growing popularity of a ‘Lean’ UX approach means the process has got a whole lot faster and – for the uninitiated – perhaps even scarier. So what’s the difference? Well going ‘Lean’ means even greater collaboration. Speed is of the essence. Ongoing learning is a priority. And you will inevitably be launching with an MVP – that’s Minimum Viable Product – rather than an optimum scoped design.

 

But in truth ‘Lean’ implementations are nothing new, and have been revolutionising manufacturing processes for decades. One of the stellar, and most cited examples, is Toyota Motor Corporation’s ‘Just-in-Time’ system –  steeped in the philosophy of ‘the complete elimination of all waste’ in pursuit of the most efficient vehicle production methods.

 

Translate that concept of continuous improvement, making only ‘what is needed, when it is needed and in the amount needed’ into the world of content marketing and you find yourself at the start of a learning journey.

 

In Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams, Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden define its principles as: ‘the practice of bringing the true nature of a product to light faster, in a collaborative, cross-functional way. Working to build a shared understanding of the customer, their needs, our proposed solutions, and our definition of success. Prioritising learning over delivery to build evidence for our decisions.’

 

What that means in reality is that you are going to have to learn to love your ugly baby. Because instead of bringing an all-singing, all-dancing, feature-fantastic product to market, your starting point will be an MVP. The least amount of work possible that will allow you to carry out experiments, testing your assumptions, focusing efforts on the best solutions to your business problems and minimising waste.

 

So what’s the best way to prepare yourself to make this leap? Here are our 6 top tips:

 

1 Get ready to fail

Making assumptions is fraught with risk and experiments can fizzle rather than produce a big bang. In Lean UX, failure is an option and, according to Jeff Gothelf, one of the biggest cultural challenges a company can face. But if you communicate regularly upwards with stakeholders, and do the sums, there’s inevitably a compelling cost argument why early failure put right to achieve ultimate success is preferable to designing an end product that users, well, don’t use.

 

2 Stock up on sticky notes

And commandeer the biggest whiteboard in the office. When you are brainstorming as a team, visualisation is key to organising and re-organising ideas and themes. It also acts as a constant reminder of the original success metrics – the business outcomes – that the iterative process is working towards.

 

3 Wear Nikes to work

You’ll be thinking a lot on your feet. Along with an extra-shot latte, the morning stand-up is the only way any self-respecting Lean UX team would start the day. During this short meeting each person will spend a few minutes recounting what they did the previous day, sharing what they will be doing the day ahead and any ‘blockers’ that may impede their progress. It keeps everyone accountable – and on their toes (literally).

 

4 Do just enough research

It is ethnographic design research – understanding how your target audience behaves and why – that enables assumptions to be replaced by actual insight into what people need, explains Erika Hall in In Just Enough Research. But how much research is enough? If you follow Hall’s advice, you’ll forget focus groups, and instead embrace a quick and dirty qualitative approach that starts with the riskiest assumptions and continues – in parallel with ongoing design – until all the pieces click in place.

 

5 Leave your ego at the door

There’s no place for a rock star in a Lean UX team. The process depends on cross-discipline, collaborative teamwork with no time wasted arguing over personal opinions. Decisions will be directed by learnings gleaned from user research and usability testing along the way.

 

6 Think, create, learn, iterate. Repeat

Make these four words your mantra and ultimate success is assured. It’s the cyclical process we use at Haymarket Network that starts with product strategy (the vision) first and foremost, then moves onto discovery (research), conceptual design thinking (concept), delivery (ship) and iteration (testing and refining).

 

If you think that your current business challenges could be met with a Lean UX approach – or you would just like to find out more – talk to us. Just call or email Issie Peate on 020 8267 5249, issie.peate@haymarket.com