Let's do the UX in a Lean and Agile way: Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Let's do the UX in a Lean and Agile way: Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden


4 min read


Lean + Agile + Design Thinking

A few years ago, I read the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and the only thing I can remember now is the MVP, which means Minimal Viable Product. Then I read the Design Sprint by Jake Knapp, JZ and Brad Kowitz, and immediately became a big fan and practitioner of the 5 day's design sprint. Last year I started to learn the Design Thinking approach and found that the collaborate workshop is a great way to define the problems for a practical project. I'm always curious about a designer's balance in a team which follows Agile's principles because most of the time the team focus on the developing and the designer might feel don't have enough time to do a proper design.

I wonder if there's a methodology can combine all the core principles of the book I read for digital product designer to adapt in the practical case.

After reading Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, I know it is the methodology which combines the principles of Lean, Agile and Design Thinking for the modern digital product design and development.

image Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Lean UX is a combination of workflows, principles and rules for modern digital product design and development. It takes the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) from Lean Startup, collaborative workshop from Design Thinking, conversation-based developing workflow from Agile and user-centric design principles from UX design, and ask the team focus on outcomes, not outputs.


A Lean UX team is a small team (two-pizza-sized ideally) with cross-functional members. They will research the user problems, and focus on the outcomes, not outputs(features). Then they ideate assumptions for the problems with a lot of artifacts, which are sketches, notes, stories, proto-personas and so on. After that, they will mock up an MVP for user testing as soon as possible to validate the assumptions. The whole team works on the core Agile development values: conversation over documentation, collaboration over processes, responding to change over following a plan.

This book is great for the team would like to get the most use of Agile, Lean Startup and Design Thinking. It also provides some excellent case studies in the last chapter of the book that shows examples from multinational companies to consultant agencies using Lean UX to improve their performance.


What's a designer's goal

The most important thing I learned from this book is the designer's goal. What is the designer's goal? In my early years as a designer, I thought a designer's goal is to present a beautiful design that can make other people 'whoa!' That is not the designer's goal. At least, that's not the modern digital designer's goal.

The common stereotype of a designer is a heroic magician who works hard alone and wow people when he shows his work. Maybe that's true in the traditional agencies, the creative directors are untouchable (TV: Mad Man).

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 10.08.32 P TV: Mad Man

The world changed, so as the design processes, pipelines, medium and pipelines too. The modern software design is different as the industrial design or print design, it full of uncertainties. As a designer, you can't design right for the first time, even if you are a genius. Steve Jobs failed so many times (Lisa!) before iPod, Macbook and iPhone. And of course, we are not Steve Jobs.

Now I think a designer's goal is to validate the proposed solution as efficiently as possible by using customer feedback. A designer is not a hero, ninja or guru, but more like a doctor. Follow the steps of 'build-measure-learn' is the principle of a good designer. Also, a good designer should iterate the process as well as the design. Design your design process is important too.


The 3-12-1 user testing tip

I used to think user testing is not necessary for a project, and sometimes it just a bureaucratic step which can be easily skipped. I was involved with more than 30 web and app projects; some of them are quite successful; some of them failed. All the failed projects didn't test with users.

Too many benefits to share for doing user testing, it should be included in your designer's toolkit also. There are many tips about user testing in Lean UX, and I would like to highlight one: the 3-12-1 approach. It means invite three users to appear at 12 o'clock every Thursday for testing your products or services. By doing this, your team will always keep the touch with your users, and there are only 7 days away from your design to the real user's feedback. I think this is a piece of excellent advice. Actually, it works for your personal project too.


Wrap up

Lean UX applies the principles of Lean, Agile and Design Thinking to improve user experience. It focuses on outcomes, not outputs, and it's a great approach for a digital project. If you are working in a digital team, you should read it cover to cover, no matter if you are a designer, developer or product manager.

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