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Tips for achieving lean UX

The design process is like a hard-to-measure squiggly line, so how can we achieve lean UX?

UX/UI Design
5 minute read

If you are part of an agile team, you might hear about “being lean” on the design process or exploring design thinking and getting rid of “wasting time” by becoming productive. But what exactly is lean UX? Lean UX is a collaborative approach that uses a group of three main principles: Design thinking, Agile development and Lean Startup. These help interconnect design and development for better communication, reduce risks and experiment with MVPs to get the most data possible to deliver awesome products.

“Lean UX is a transparent process that not only reveals what designers do but encourages participation from everyone on the team.”

Jeff Gothelf, Lean UX

The main focus to get started with lean is leaving the mentality of perfection and embracing iteration while building the blocks of your product. Engaging with discovery, multidisciplinary teamwork and open communication are key to lean development and design. Yet, because the design process is like a hard-to-measure squiggly line, how can we achieve lean UX? In this post, we will share our personal experience to guide you into achieving lean in your design process.

Don’t be afraid to communicate

This tip might not be shocking but the truth is, we tend to forget to communicate with our team. Communication can save us a lot of time, and make our team relationship stronger by building trust and companionship. Always remember that you are part of the team and that your voice is important.

Try to put into practice the following:

  • Share your status with the team: Showing your progress and what you are going through can be insightful. One of your team members can support you if you're have a hard time or you can get motivated by sharing your progress.
  • Ask for clarification during times of uncertainty: When asking for clarification share a mock of what part of the design you are struggling to understand or approach. This can escalate into a brainstorming session with your team to attend to parts unfinished in documentation or hypothesis that need more research, thus getting rid of the risk of developing a faulty feature.
  • Involve your team in the design process by asking for feedback: Asking for feedback can lead to your team assessing UX problems before even starting development. This encourages collaboration and puts the mindset of design thinking into practice.

By asking questions, clarifying and sharing your ideas you will discover key points of improvement that you might not be aware of.


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Focus on iteration, not on deliverables

Design is a process that takes time to be acceptable, not perfect. If you focus on the “perfect design” or “perfect solution”, you might end up frustrated by having poor results after user testing, and asking yourself “where did I go wrong? Everything looked great…”

Our advice is that you concentrate first on the components and features you need to support your current hypothesis. Then put it to the test with peer review and usability testing as soon as possible. As designers, we understand that you might want to give that extra sparkle to the design beforehand, but think about the beauty of validating the user’s needs first.

The way we break the cycle of “having the perfect design” is by:

  • Using the Atomic design approach: Think of building blocks when it comes to designing your product. These blocks can be nav bars, side bars, buttons, profiles, tables and anything needed to construct a WEB page or APP.
  • Taking advantage of making local components and refining during research: Components will be a life changer for you, so go ahead and make a local component file and make use of them to allow the main user flows to confirm your hypothesis. Once you are in your refinement cycle, you can clean and upgrade them with ease.
  • Making minimal UI changes during MVP testing: MVPs are experiments used to discover utility, and usability and to get insights from your users. You can use these discoveries to confirm your current palette and aesthetics.

Embrace the grey area between design, development and research by building empathy

Lean product development promotes getting rid of phases during production, meaning design, development and research are all working together with a user-centric holistic approach to UX design. This may be one of the challenges of lean, but keep in mind that your team might need more than just your Figma files.

Lean designers are famous in teams, not only for user empathy but for having empathy for the team and the business. As designers we need to recognise and understand other people’s perspectives and what they have to endure during their process, so don’t hesitate to be assertive in the areas that connect with design such as UX development or UX research.

Practice your empathy by:

  • Getting to know more about your peers’ process: By knowing about the development and research process you will get to anticipate what is next during the UX process. Be ahead of the game by incorporating variations in your design to support component status or by making a checklist of the flows needed for user testing.
  • Make prototypes before being asked: When you make prototypes of the user flow you will take into account small areas that might have skipped your mind, and you can get to design them quicker. As a plus, you will be prepared to share it with the team to clarify more about the flow and anything that might need more research.

Key takeaways

Don’t forget that just like design thinking, lean UX is a culture. It is a way to think about and approach your design. Don’t be discouraged by the learning process it takes to adjust.

Remember that the key ingredients are:

  • Team collaboration
  • Empathy
  • Open communication
  • Experimentation and discovery

So practice communicating with your team, focus on iterating your designs and embrace the grey areas of the multidisciplinary team.

If you want to know more about Lean UX, we recommend these good reads: