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A view of Lean UX, not a final definition.
on 1 July 2013
I work in UX and have done for over 15 years. This book attempt to summarise what is meant by 'Lean UX' and how it can be done. It manages to offer a view but is too sketch and patchy to be a definitive guide.
In a nut shell it was a rebranding of the practices I had taken part in for many years, but with a few new additions to bring the ideas up to date and inline with ideas like Agile and Lean Start Up. In a nut shell the book does not invent but rediscovers ideas. For example the close working of teams has been around since I've been working, with War Rooms bringing together developers, stakeholders and designers into a seamless team. The idea of hypothesis then test is also something that has been around in areas of product design and design in general for a long time. Ideas like using style guides that everyone can access have also been in place for the time I've been working, often evolving from brand guidelines. I was lucky enough to work with Disney in my early career and was always amazed at the style guides they had for their films.
Where the book is weakest is when it tries to tie too much into lean Start up. There are many things about lean start up that are developer orientated, much like Agile. One area it is weak is in the creation of concepts prior to focusing upon actual interfaces - that is testing out the whole idea of something and getting that right before delving into detail. Lean Start Up and Agile use an evolutionary model to improve the product, but the final destination of the product is dependent on the starting point - and that is where the book is weak. It labels the starting point as 'assumptions' and places research squarely after something has been built. Research during the project is fine but it does not indicate how projects start. The wrong starting point can mean that the evolutionary path never finds a good ultimate ending point, for more on this see the concept of fitness landscapes, it's possible for any project to get stuck on a low mountain if it starts on the wrong point on the landscape.
It does remain a good summation of many ideas that UX people have been using for a long time and whilst it does over state some ideas and is unclear about others it is still a book worth reading, if only to allow a continued conversation about how UX works in different environments. Ultimately there are too many no so good ideas (like Proto Personas) amongst the good ideas for me to see this as being the ultimate book on how to keep user experience light, quick and effective.