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Lean UX (2008)

The basics

As we have already mentioned, the reality of building software products is that there will always be a high level of unknowns. Planning and estimating can help clear some unknowns but never eliminate them. Scrum did an excellent job by recognising that a little bit of planning and estimating can help to make things better, but attempting to plan and estimate the entire product upfront is ultimately a waste of time.

The problem with Scrum is that it failed to formally recognise that introducing a discovery or experimentation phase into the product team's workflow can eliminate more unknowns than planning or estimating, which is the main principle behind Lean UX.

Like the Agile Manifesto, Lean UX is more of a list of principles than an software development methodology. The main principles of Lean UX include the following:

  • Customer-centric: understand your customers and the problem you are solving for them before you build a product. MVPs: start with a minimal product and add features gradually as you learn more.

  • Continuous innovation: continuously look for ways to improve your product or business through experimentation and iteration.

  • Data-driven: use data and customer feedback to make informed decisions.

  • Embrace failure: an opportunity to learn and improve your product or business based on customer feedback and data.

  • Action over planning: prioritise taking action over creating detailed plans.

Lean encourages us to build as little as possible and collect as much feedback from users as early as possible. We must then decide our next move based on the collected user data.

Pros and cons

The best thing about Lean UX is that it introduces the idea of using discovery, experimentation and data analytics over planning and estimation as the primary way to mitigate risk in software development projects.

The bad thing about Lean UX is that it is not as prescript as Scrum and requires an upfront research investment. The nature of experimentation makes it hard to plan an estimate. These reasons make Lean UX much scarier for management than Scrum, especially for large organisations.