Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

no title has been provided for this book
Author: Jeff Gothelf
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Published: 3/8/2013
The Lean UX approach to interaction design is tailor-made for today’s web-driven reality. In this insightful book, leading advocate Jeff Gothelf teaches you valuable Lean UX principles, tactics, and techniques from the ground up—how to rapidly experiment with design ideas, validate them with real users, and continually adjust your design based on what you learn.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by Jeff Gothelf

Key Insights

In today’s world, companies need to make continuous improvements to their product to adapt to customers changing moods and a competitive environment. Amazon makes changes to their products every second. The Waterfall approach of making big changes at one time after careful planning and development no longer works. Lean UX approach allows companies to iterate quickly.

Lean UX is based on design thinking, agile software development, and collaboration. Design thinking is the idea that every aspect of business can be approached with design in mind. A Lean UX team consists of designers, marketing, business analysts, product, and engineers. It's a cross-disciplinary approach. Lean UX team prioritize action and feedback over planning and documentation. Product Iteration based on user feedback is key to success. The initial prototype is used to test market assumptions and thrown away if it doesn't fit. Product iteration follows based on user feedback. Bad ideas and inaccurate assumptions are discarded.

Key Points

Lean UX principles


  • Lean Culture - Decisions are made based on facts and evidence. Product changes are tested with customers. Risk-taking is encouraged.
  • Lean teams can make business decisions on their own. They work together through the product life cycle. Lean teams consist of less than 10 members.
  • Lean Process - Lean team members don’t change the whole product at once. They work on small parts of it. They watch customers shed light on the issues with the design.


Focus on outcomes. For example, instead of focusing on adding X feature, focus on increasing revenue. What is the desired outcome? What do you want to happen? Come up with a hypothesis based on what the desired outcome should be. For example, if we change the CTA to Start Now more people will convert. Test each assumption. A product requirement is an assumption because what you create will change.

Make sure you’re aware of the problem that you’re trying to solve. What are the gaps and improvements needed to be made? What are the assumptions in the problem statement? Turn these assumptions into hypothesis statements.

Assumptions are the ideas that you have about the business. For example, a recruiting business’s assumption is that employers will use the service to interact with employees. Turn assumptions into testable hypotheses. What is the result that you want to achieve? The outcome for a recruiting business is that they want more job seekers to sign up. What are the personas that you want to attract? What is their behavioral and demographic information? What are their difficulties and needs? What are the potential solutions to their problems? Think about the features or actual products and services that might achieve your desired outcome. Use quantitative and qualitative data to test the hypothesis.

Make sure to revise your definition of the audience along the way. Remember that users don’t care about functionality - they care about goals. Determine what their goals are? What blockers are do they face?

Lean UX teams

A Lean UX team is cross-disciplinary. It’s made up of marketing people, software engineers, designers, and business analysts. This makes sure that there is a diversity in ideas and opinions. Designers work with other employees right away, allowing them to fix issues that arise quickly. For example, the designer and developer work together to design a page. They communicate and tweak things on both sides until the design is done.

Your MVP

When testing an idea, startups usually start with an MVP, which is the smallest thing you can make or the smallest action to test the validity of your product.

For example, Riley wants to test out a newsletter; he puts up a webpage with a signup bar and sees if people sign up.

You can also paper prototype the MVP. The downside is that it might not accurately mimic the user’s experience with the product.

Observe how people interact with your prototype. In need of users to test out your MVP? You could use Facebook, Kickstarter, or eBay storefronts to get your MVP in the hands of people.

An MVP allows you to gauge interest and is a great way to test your hypothesis. If many people sign up to the “newsletter”, Riley sees that there might be interest there.

How the Lean UX process works

Continuously testing your product with customers is an essential part of Lean UX.

You might want to test the MVP once a week with three different customers.

Conduct the research as a group.


  • Identify what you are going to test and which customers to test with.
  • Refine your MVP to reflect exactly what you’re testing.
  • Write a test script for your interview.
  • Test the MVP with customers for less than one hour
  • Review results. Do your results validate your hypothesis? Revise your hypothesis and retest. Change your MVP before the next round of interviews.


Check your assumptions and hypothesis by releasing different MVPs to different user groups.

Lean UX Team

Always create an open workspace that fosters collaboration and dialogue between your team members. You want your team members to go above and beyond their skillsets when it comes to their contribution to the team. To do by:


  • Removing physical obstacles between team members
  • Giving enough space for whiteboards to allow team members to sketch things out and provide their feedback


If it’s not possible for team members to be in one place, use Skype and regular in-person meetings to help them collaborate more.

The Main Take-away

Today startups need to adapt to continually changing environments. Continuously iterating is essential to keep ahead of the curve. To do that it’s important to experiment constantly, but only to do so with the confirmation of your customer feedback.

Determine your hypothesis - designs that you believe will lead to the desired outcome - as a team. Develop ”proto personas“ for your customers to learn more about them. Prioritize your hypotheses and features and assumptions you want to test according to how your personas achieve their goals through using that feature. Create MVPs to test hypotheses. Discard designs that customers reject.


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