Are you Lean Enough

What is lean?

‘Lean development’ as a methodology has become increasingly popular over the past decade, not least due to Eric Ries’ best-seller The Lean Start Up. But what is all the fuss about?

The argument goes that designing new products or services is risky because there are so many uncertainties and design teams have too many hypotheses, for example, about users, their goals, what they will or won’t pay for and so on. To reduce this uncertainty you need to test these hypotheses.

The key theme of Lean is that it is an iterative method following the cycle of build, measure and learn. You builds upon the most minimal version of a design concept, testing ideas with users as early as possible. Starting with something totally stripped back means that you won’t waste development time or money building out unnecessary features. It ensures that you can develop quickly and change easily, giving your product the best chance of being a market leader.

Once you have identified your hypothesis you can design “experiments” to test them. By analysing test results you can continue to develop your idea or pivot (change direction) so that ultimately your developing a product that has more value for your customers.

Identifying Your Hypotheses – The UX Value Proposition

Before you can begin to test your hypothesis you need identify them. Let’s assume that you have a website and its purpose is to get people to go on house viewings with the main business objectives of increasing the number of people who request to view a property after visiting your website. The user experience attributes that influence the likelihood of this business objective being achieved become the basis of your hypothesis. In the case of your property website these attributes are likely to be:

  • The ability to easily search for houses by price and location.
  • The ease of navigating the 360 panoramic room view. If you have something like a quick time panorama viewer, presumably if it is easy to navigate then people are more likely to want to view the house afterwards.
  • The ability to easily compare houses by feature, for example, garage, conservatory and so on. Again, if it’s easier to do that, presumably it’s going to be easier for people to narrow down their choices and then ask to view a property.

To identify your initial user experience attributes, you will likely need to do a bit of initial research, doing this research will give you confidence that you have identified the right UX attributes to focus on. For example, you could speak to a people who previously viewed houses after vising the site and ask them why. Alternatively you could send people an online survey. If you don’t research before hand you may find that you have spent weeks improving the search function only find it has no impact on the business objective at all.

From Attributes to Hypotheses

It is important to note that the attributes themselves are not your hypotheses; these will be worded as an assumption. For example, take the attribute surrounding search functionality, here you are assuming that if you improved search functionality then more people would request a house viewing. The attribute is search functionality, but the hypothesis is the assumption that this function will impact the business objective.

Once you identify the user experience attributes for your business objectives you will have a set of hypothesis that can be used to guide development sprints. These hypothesis help to make it clear to your team what the UX priorities are with the current version release.

High Five

Now you know the basic principles of the lean methodology and can identify your hypotheses. Don’t forget it’s important to keep iterating through the build, measure, learn cycle and to test your hypothesis with your users as early as possible. Look out for my next post on hypotheses testing.

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