Let’s face it. Apps are in fashion in the business world, the new “black” indeed. We are seeing organizations change structure to support business and customer activity driven by apps. So now everyone wants an app. But developing software is not easy. Getting the user interface right is a make or break ordeal. And most businesses experience a break with a capital B.
To have more makes than breaks, read the book Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience. The book is written by Jeff Gothelf (@jboogie), an international speaker of UX processes, with input from Josh Seiden (@jseiden), a 20 year veteran of software design and development leadership.
The book is part of an O’Reilly series on lean principles: Eric Ries (@ericries), the well-known pioneer for the lean startup movement, provides a preface and is a series editor.
I discovered the book while taking a Ruby on Rails development course in Washington DC. The book is meant for the topic of product design from the users prospective. Yet as I briefly skimmed the pages, I soon learned that it had value beyond the intent – to help businesses form the development means to support its product through product design.
I am intrigued by books that exceed their intended purpose, so I borrowed a copy of Lean UX for this review.
The Basics About Lean UX
What is Lean UX? It is a technology development philosophy rooted in two ideas: Design thinking and agile development philosophies. The main purpose is to reach a state of “sine qua non” – knowing the essential development features and steps, without which – no product exists.
The book’s topic is timely given the increased reliance on apps as a business strategy. I say that the book exceeds its purpose because the current activity associated with cloud services is also increasingly deployed to support products and services. Just because a tool is on the cloud does not mean that people automatically know what to do to make an app, website, or software a reality.
Thus, Lean UX is about making timely outcomes and organizing the team to support those outcomes.
What I Liked About This Book
The book is brief – only 124 pages, perfect for a short flight read. Lean UX offers workable solutions and bias-free tool suggestions. For example, there is a worksheet that lets the user outline business assumptions against user assumptions. Just about every designer has heard of a wireframe, but Gothelf and Seiden offer a selection of low fidelity and high fidelity wireframes. The tools are explained with clear concepts meant to organize your choice of page elements to engage a user.
The end result for the reader is a better capability to frame the initial product idea into a useful demo. As a reader you will have a better appreciation for the concept of MVP – Minimal Viable Product.
“MVPs help test our assumptions – will this tactic achieve the desired outcome – while minimizing the work we put into unproven ideas? The sooner we can find what features are worth investing in, the sooner we can focus our limited resources on the best solutions to our business problems.”
This perspective complements analytics, since much of the purpose behind metrics is revealing where resources should be directed. In fact, there is an analytics reference to site usage measurement and A/B testing.
The early chapters outline Lean UX basics and how initial assumptions are properly created, such as identifying personas. Later chapters get into integrating agile development processes, with nods to another process called scrum.
Who Would Benefit Most From This Book?
The book is meant for entrepreneurs who are past the have-an-idea and dream stage, but those within that realm are beneficiaries, too. Much goes into working with people and individuals over process and tools. Readers should find that perspective a refreshing tenet. Understanding the significance of the tools involved can leave even the most steadfast experienced developer dizzy. I found this book helpful in outlining how steps are processed, and what tools and steps are available.
What if your business strategy does not revolve around software? Well, much of the agile development process is meant to address organizational structure to support a product and how teams can work in general. Focus on the last chapters, such as Chapter 8, which notes how an organizational shift can occur. Combine these ending chapters with other books on project management to see what team actions can best be quickly implemented and properly managed.
No matter how you use this book, you’ll find Lean UX more valuable than the immediate need to design an app. You’ll find your team or business better prepared to take advantage of increases in cloud related services. That kind of preparation is more than the new “black” – business preparation is always in style, and Lean UX will certainly make that style grand.