Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lean User Experience: Using UX on an Agile Project

User Experience is a discipline that has a strange relationship with Agile. On the one hand, traditional UX work involves research, testing, and other steps that seem inconsistent with working in the context of an agile project. It also seems to be a discipline where practitioner often seem to be committed to a Big Design Up Front approach, which is inconsistent with Agile. On the other hand, getting the user experience right seems like an essential part of delivering value. The book Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience explains how UX work integrates with agile.

The book combines the themes of The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (including MVP: Minimum Viable Product) with those of user experience and agile methods like Scrum, in a concise, book that can serve both as a quick overview of the concepts which you can read in one or two sittings, as well as a reference for how to apply the process on your team.

This book has stories, templates, guidelines to help you both use User Experience Design in an agile team as well as to use User Experience to help your agile team do a better job of building the right thing. Much of what you'll read will strike you as "common sense," which, sadly, does not translate to common practice in many organizations.

This is a rare book that is information dense, yet which does not allow that information density to compromise readability. The viability of the book as a reference compensates for the one flaw I see in it's presentation of the principles of Lean UX: there are too many principles.

The book starts with a list of 15 (related) principles of Lean UX, which is far more than most people can keep in their head, making it harder to both sell and internalize the ideas. I understand that there is a lot to do to implement Lean UX, but I can't help think there must be a way to distill the 15 principles into 5-7 key ones which incorporate the spirit of the whole set. This may sound like a petty detail, but I suspect that it would be hard for someone not as versed in the concepts as the authors to sell the concept based on those 15. If you can't sell an idea, it is that much harder to break down opposition to it.
The concrete, concise way the authors describe how to implement Lean UX in various environments compensates for this, but since the book started out with an overview of principles, I was initially concerned about how the rest of the book would go. It is worth pushing past the principles section to learn the value of Lean UX, and techniques to use it effectively.

The book will be useful to managers, UX designers and developers and anyone wondering how UX can work in an agile environment. Since user experience is such a central part of the product definition it will also be useful to anyone who simply wants a better understanding of agile product development.

(Note: This review was based on a review copy of the book.)