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Lean UX

13 July 2015

Ramesh Lakkaraju

To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behaviour. -- Jakob Nielsen

As Nielsen rightly said, designing a user experience (UX) that is user friendly is vital. The user experience design is the most crucial part, and the selling agent, of your product in today's world. It is what the end users see and feel each time they work with the product.

Given the increasing pace at which software development is transformed by using Agile methods, we must ramp up to the speed of changing requirements while also keeping in mind the important aspect of UX. However, one cannot afford to spend much time these days in designing the UX, as it has to align with the development of functionality within the smaller iterations. Agile does not provide any straightforward solution to make the UX design feasible in shorter increments. However, people have started using a few techniques, such as Sprint Zero, design thinking, and spikes, while working with UX design. The current situation is that Agile places importance on the programming aspect of a feature and not on the business aspect. While the importance of customer-centric software development was being realized, the UX concept evolved, but the problem with developing UX in an Agile organization continues to be about integration and speed.

Successful software delivers the project within the three constraints of time, cost, and budget. However, UX is also one of the important factors that goes into building a successful project. Lean UX is one of the emerging ways that helps build the user interface at the same pace as product development. While Agile UX enforces collaboration between Agile and the UX teams over a documentation-based approach, Lean UX promotes practices that speed up and help validate the UX design with the end customers.

Lean UX is one of the methods Agile teams can implement to help ease the UX design integration with the Agile development cycle. Lean UX is in line with the Lean start-up style of working that relies on small experiments in which you start with an idea, validate it with customers, take feedback, and build the next increment. The core of Lean UX consists of the experimentation cycles that drive the build-measure-learn feedback loop in small iterations.

The Agile UX philosophy is to integrate Agile and UX under a single software development method by having the development and UX teams work as one team. In contrast, the Lean UX philosophy is that the design of UX eases into the Agile development cycle by implementing a lightweight process that supports the core principles of the Lean start-up.

Let us briefly look at the Lean UX method and how it facilitates Agile and UX development. At the core, Lean UX focuses on the actual user experience. It favors shorter design cycles as opposed to the long design phases of traditional development. The critical success factor for Lean UX is the collaboration between the UX and development teams. Lean UX focuses on lightweight, low-cost, and quick-timer tools, such as whiteboard sketches and wireframes, to convey the visual design work flow to the teams so that they can provide their input on the feasibility of the design and check the usability factor. Based on the feasibility and usability, the design is revamped to make it realizable. When the design is deemed acceptable, it is prototyped and validated with actual customer feedback. And this cycle repeats.


The key aspect of Lean UX is prototyping. The critical user work flow is selected and prototyped by using low-fidelity fast tools to save time. The idea is to get feedback from the stakeholders on the usability and viability of the design and then redo it as quickly as possible, based on the feedback. The prototype becomes the documentation that comprises validated user flows and validated feasibility from the developers. It's also a replica of the specification document. When the design of a particular component is validated, developers move to the development of the core component or the development of the actual business logic. Thus, the design is quickly validated by customers who would be using it. Keep the vision of the product in mind, and use it as a guide to drive the prototyping in small chunks.

Advantages of Lean UX:
  • Team members feel a sense of ownership because they have a say during the entire design cycle.
  • If there are any flaws in the work flow design, the problems can be identified early on.
  • Feasibility is quickly assessed; developers are involved to determine whether the design is technically viable.
  • Basic prototyping allows for quicker validation of feasibility and usability, usually within days or weeks.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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