In the process of implementing lean user experience, you will find that it has a set of core principles. These principles cover the execution process, collaboration, management and more. Teams that follow these principles will benefit a lot from using lean user experience methods. When your team starts to implement lean user experience, these principles can point your team in the direction. Keep these principles in mind. I will describe the lean user experience process later in this book. The specific situation of each team is different, and you will inevitably have to adjust the lean user experience process to match your team. This chapter explains these principles, which will provide guidance for your work.

Finally, if you can apply these principles to practice, you will find that you will change the entire team culture. Some principles will have a great impact in comparison, and at the same time it will be more difficult to promote, while others are easier to implement. In any case, each principle will be described in detail here to help you build a product design team that is strong in collaboration, cross-functionality, and practicality to better adapt to today’s reality.

Three foundations of lean user experience

There are three basics of lean user experience, the first is design thinking .

Tim Brown is the CEO and President of the legendary design company IDEO. He believes that design thinking is “the driving force of innovation… the direct observation of what people want and what they need in life, and how they produce and package specific products , Marketing, sales, and service preferences… [Design Thinking] is a discipline that uses the designer’s feelings and methods to transform feasible technologies, business strategies and users that can be transformed into customer value and market opportunities. Match the needs.”

In the lean user experience, design thinking is very important, because all aspects of a business activity that can be solved by design methods require design thinking to play a role. It provides designers with authority and guidance cases in their work, breaking the previous design limitations. Design thinking also encourages non-designers to use design methods to solve the problems they face in their respective work. Design thinking is an important foundation for encouraging people in different roles in a team to collaborate and consider product design from a holistic perspective.

The second foundation of lean user experience is agile software development . Over the years, software developers have used agile development methods to shorten the design cycle and deliver results to customers in a continuous manner. Although agile development methods pose certain challenges for designers (the solutions will be described in the third part), the core value of agile development is also the focus of lean user experience. Lean user experience applies the four core principles of agile development to product design:

  1.  Individuals and interactions are better than processes and tools. In order to produce the best solution quickly, you must mobilize the power of the entire team, and exchange ideas frequently within the team. The constraints of the current design process and production tools hinder opportunities for colleagues to talk to each other.
  2. Available working software is better than comprehensive documentation. Every business problem has endless solutions, and every team member may come up with the best solution. The challenge is to find the most feasible solution from many solutions. Through the rapid establishment of available working software for analysis, the market adaptability and feasibility of the program can be evaluated.
  3. Consumer participation is better than contract negotiation. Establish a consensus with your team members and users on a problem and propose a solution. In this way, a consensus-based solution can be created. What is the result? Faster product iterations and genuine participation in the product manufacturing process are all based on the team’s confirmatory cognition of ideas. It also reduces the reliance on heavy documents. Everyone in the team is involved in decision-making, which in the past usually required written communication and discussion.
  4. Plan to respond to changes. The assumption of lean user experience is that the initial product design is wrong, so our goal now should be to find out where the problem is as soon as possible. Once we find out what is working and what is not working, we will improve the suggestions and test again. This information input from the market keeps us agile and continuously pushes us in the “more correct” direction.

The third foundation of Lean User Experience is the Lean Startup Method created by Eric Rice . Lean entrepreneurship uses a feedback loop called “development-evaluation-cognition” to reduce project risks and accelerate team building and learning rates. The team establishes the most simplified viable product (MVP) and delivers it quickly, so that team members have a certain understanding of the product as soon as possible.

“Lean entrepreneurship initially advocated the creation of rapid prototyping to test market hypotheses, and improved designs based on user feedback. This would be much faster than traditional software engineering practices… The lean entrepreneurship process reduces resources by increasing the frequency of contact with real users Waste, so it needs to be tested as early as possible to avoid false market assumptions.”-Eric

Lean user experience is the direct application of this design idea to product design practice.

Each design is to propose a business solution-a hypothesis. Your goal is to use user feedback as effectively as possible to verify the proposed solutions and feasibility. To verify each hypothesis, you can establish the most basic MVP for testing, that is, the most simplified viable product. MVP does not need to write code, it strives to be close to the final use experience. Collect data from the MVP test to improve the design ideas, and then do another test.

The approach of lean user experience is: lean user experience is designed to show the true nature of the product as soon as possible, reduce reliance on design documents through collaboration and cross-functional methods, and focus on establishing a consensus on the real experience of the product.

In principle

In the rest of this chapter, I will show some principles of lean user experience. When you practice lean user experience methods in practice, be sure to keep these principles in mind. Take this experience of practicing lean user experience as a learning journey. By using these principles, you and your team will develop in the right direction.

Principle : Boast functional teams

what is this? A cross-functional team is formed by members with a variety of disciplines to create a product team structure. Talents with academic backgrounds in software engineering, product management, interaction design, visual design, content strategy, marketing, and quality assurance (QA) should all be absorbed in the lean user experience team. Lean user experience requires a high level of cooperation between multiple disciplines. Their participation must be persevering, not halfway through, from the first day of the project to the last day of the project.

Why did you do this? The diversified team model subverts the traditional so-called waterfall-style design method that is connected to each other. Members of different academic backgrounds can put forward their own views on each idea in the early stage of the design. Encourage inter-departmental communication in the team to promote the improvement of team efficiency.

Principle : Small, dedicated, clustered

what is this? Simplify the team size and keep the number of core members of your team no more than 10. All members must get together and work together in a project.

Why did you do this? The benefits of a small team boil down to three words: communication, focus, and friendship. Smaller teams are easier to maintain a smooth state of project phases, content changes and new perceptions. Put the team into a project and keep everyone on the team always putting it on the same priority. The gathering of team members in the same place allows a good relationship between colleagues to be established quickly.

Principle : Project progress outcome, not output

what is this? Functions and services are outputs. The business goal to be achieved is the result of a product or service. Lean User Experience evaluates project progress based on clearly defined business outcomes.

Why did you do this? When we try to predict which features will bring specific results, it can usually be seen as a speculative behavior. Although a specific feature is easy to manage before it goes live, we also don’t know its effectiveness until it is actually launched on the market. By managing the results (and the progress brought about by both), we can grasp the effects of the functions we create. If a function does not work well, we can make an objective decision: keep it as it is, change the strategy, or replace other functions.

Principle : Problem-focused team

what is this? A problem-focused team is a team that aims to solve business problems rather than focus on the realization of a certain function. This is a logical extension of the team focused on results and benefits.

Why do you do this ? Letting the team solve business problems independently shows trust in the entire team. Allowing team members to propose their own solutions can drive the deep sense of honor and ownership of the members when solving the problems faced by the team.

Principle : Reduce waste

what is this? A core principle of lean manufacturing is to remove those elements that have nothing to do with achieving the ultimate goal. When practicing lean user experience, the ultimate goal is to optimize the results of improvement; therefore, any element that has nothing to do with the improvement results can be regarded as a kind of waste in disguise and should be eliminated from the team’s practice process.

Why did you do this? Team resources are limited. The more elements the team puts forward for wasting resources, the faster the team will operate. What the team wants is an efficient operation team that can face challenges directly at work. Eliminating waste can focus the team’s energy on the key points of the problem.

Principle : Small batches

what is this? Another basic principle derived from lean manufacturing is the use of small batches. Lean manufacturing maintains the balance of low inventory and high quality by practicing this concept. Transplanting this concept to lean user experience means that creating a design prototype is necessary to promote the team’s work process to avoid large untested “inventory” and unrealized design ideas.

Why did you do this? High-volume design brings low team work efficiency. Because the team needs to be forced

Waiting for the design delivery in large quantities. This hinders the team from verifying the validity of the idea and concept, which makes some team members inevitably idle and idle, and also causes some design ideas to be shelved and ultimately not used. This method is a waste of resources and does not greatly improve the overall cognitive potential of the team.

Principle : Continuous discovery

what is this? Continuous discovery refers to the process of continuous user participation in the design and development phases. This participation process is achieved through regular activities, using quantitative and qualitative methods. Our goal is to understand how users use your product and why they do it. Do research on a regular basis on a schedule, and the research involves the participation of the entire team.

Why do you do this ? Regular conversations with users provide the team with more opportunities to validate new product ideas. By integrating the entire team member into the research cycle, the team is able to build empathy for users and the problems they face. Finally, team members get together to participate in the discussion, which can reduce the need for oral communication and document reporting in the future.

Principle GOOB’s  new user-centric approach

what is this? This sounds like the first words of a baby, but GOOB actually puts forward the so-called “out of the building” acronym for Stanford University professor, entrepreneur and author Steve Blank. This is because people realize that discussing what the user needs in the meeting room will eventually get the desired solution. Instead, the answer to the question is in the market, outside your office building. After advocating user research for many years, user experience researchers finally got the support of Steve Blank from the business field. Blank’s suggestion is: Let your potential users provide feedback on your ideas faster than in the past. Use cruel facts to test your ideas in the early stages of design. It’s best to spot errors in the design direction early, lest you spend time and resources to create a product that no one cares about.

Why did you do this? In the end, the success or failure of the product is not determined by the team, but by the user. The “Buy Now” button is designed by you, but it’s up to the user to click it. The sooner you get feedback from users, the sooner you will know if the idea works.

Principle : Consensus

what is this? Consensus is a common understanding established by the team in the long-term cooperation process, including a rich understanding of problem areas, products, and users.

Why did you do this? A common understanding is necessary in a lean user experience. If the team members agree on what they are doing and why, then the team does not need to rely on second-hand research reports and detailed documents to continue the work.

Principle 10 : Negative teaching materials-stars, masters, and masters

what is this? Lean user experience advocates a mentality based on teamwork, while celebrities, masters, masters and other elite experts will adopt a non-cooperative attitude and undermine team cohesion.

Why did you do this? Stars will neither share their thoughts with you nor share their glory under the spotlight. When someone in the team has a strong sense of self and is determined to stand up and become a star, the team’s cohesion collapses in an instant. When the cooperation is broken, the team loses the previously created environment of team consensus to promote the efficient operation of the project, and will inevitably fall into the process of repeated design again.

Principle 11 : Externalization

what is this? Externalization means to show the ideas and programs in your mind and computer to the public. Use styrofoam boards, whiteboards, drawing walls, printed paper strips and sticky notes to let their team members, colleagues, and users see the team’s work progress.

Why did you do this? The externalization work displays the ideas in the mind of each team member on the wall, allowing everyone to see where the team is now. This establishes a continuous flow of information within the team, draws ideas from the sharing, and inspires new ideas. It allows all team members-even those who usually speak little-to participate in information sharing activities. Sticky notes or whiteboard sketches are as important as the status of the most prominent members of the team in the team.

Principle 12 : Doing things is better than analyzing

what is this? Lean user experience advocates doing things better than analyzing them. Creating the first version of the idea as quickly as possible is more meaningful than spending half a day in a meeting room discussing its advantages.

Why did you do this? When you encounter a problem, you can’t find the answer in the conference room. Instead, the answer to the question lies with the user. In order to find the answers to these questions, you need to make your ideas specific-you need to make something that allows people to give feedback. Arguing over ideas is a waste of time and energy. Make something and go out of the building to verify it, instead of analyzing all possible situations in the room.

Principle 13 : Learning is better than growth

what is this? It is difficult to find the right positioning of the product and expand the business scope at the same time. They are a contradiction. Lean user experience advocates learning and cognition first, and business expansion second.

Why did you do this? It is dangerous to expand an unproven idea at will. It may serve its purpose, or it may not. If it proves to be unable to achieve the goal in the end, and you have expanded it to the entire user base, then it means that the entire team is wasting the precious time and resources before. It is important to ensure that the idea is correct before expanding to mitigate the inherent risks of a wide range of feature deployments.

Principle 14 : The right to fail

what is this? In order to find the best solution to a business problem, the lean user experience team needs to verify ideas through experiments, and most ideas will prove to be wrong. If the team wants to succeed, it must be able to resolve failures safely. Having the right to fail means that the team needs to have a safe experimental environment. This environment refers to both the technical environment—they can promote the implementation of ideas in a safe way, but also the cultural environment—that they will not be punished for failing to verify the idea.

Why did you do this? The right to fail gave rise to the so-called experimental culture, that is, experiment bred innovation, and in turn, innovation produced new solutions. When the team is no longer afraid of the failure of the work result, they are more inclined to take risks. Those good ideas ultimately come from high-risk attempts. As the saying goes that failure is the mother of success, the same applies here.

In the video “Why You Need to Fail”, the founder of CD Baby, Derek Seves, talked about an interesting event in the ceramics class. On the first day of class, the teacher announced that the students would be divided into two groups.

A group of students only need to make one pot per semester, and their grades will depend on the quality of that pot. Another group of students scored by the weight of the clay pots they made during the semester. If they make a clay pot of 50 pounds or more, they will get an A, 40 pounds will get B, 30 pounds will be C and so on. The results have nothing to do with what they actually do. The teacher said that he would not even look at the clay pots they made. He would only take the weight scale from his bathroom on the last day of the semester to weigh the students.

At the end of the semester, an interesting thing happened. External observers of the course pointed out that the highest quality clay pots had been completed by the “weight determined” group. They spent the entire semester working on making clay pots as quickly as possible, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. But they learned something new from each experiment. Through this learning process, they better achieved the ultimate goal: to make high-quality clay pots.

In contrast, the group of students who only made a clay pot did not experience failure, so they could not learn and grow quickly, and there was no student in the “weight determination” group that did well. They spent a semester thinking about how to make a pottery pot that can reach A grade, but they did not implement the specific practical activities of this magnificent idea.

Principle 15 : Don’t talk about delivery

what is this? The lean user experience design process is the transformation of the team from creating output documents to achieving the final result. With the increase in cross-functional collaboration, the conversation between the team and the stakeholders is no longer about what to do specifically, but more about what goals to achieve and what the results are.

Why did you do this? The final good product is not a document to solve the problems faced by users. The team should focus on recognizing the functions that play a major role and influence on users. It does not matter what product prototype is used for discovery. The most important thing is the quality of the product, and the quality of the product is determined by the feedback from the market.


This chapter proposes a set of basic lean user experience principles. These are the core attributes that any lean user experience team must possess. When you start your lean user experience practice, I encourage you to use these principles to define your team composition, work location, project goals, and specific practices. In the second part, I will put these principles into action and elaborate on my entire lean user experience practice process.

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