When we discuss the creation of an optimal online user experience (UX), there are a number of ways to approach the process. The Lean UX method transforms traditional user experience design to a more efficient process by reducing unnecessary steps to a lightweight process, while focusing on an agile process of building ? measuring ? learning rapid cycle. Lean UX is constantly validating UX designers' assumptions in order to build a user-friendly website that provides information, or highlights a product or service. Everything about user experience begins with research and strategy. Prior to creating any wireframes to determine the features of a site or application, we need learn about user needs in order to understand their goals. Traditionally, there are many different approaches to conducting this research and it can be a lengthy process. Along with understanding user needs, we want to unlock any pain points and frustrations the user is currently experiencing with a site or application.
Some traditional user experience research methods can include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and usability testing. Focus groups tend to take longer and are more costly. Usability testing usually comes after we have some sort of interface available for users to actually test (wireframe, prototype, mockup). Therefore, in terms of Lean UX, we will discuss and focus on the first two methods. To understand end users within a short period of time, we can apply a Lean UX method. By asking key questions based on the audience segment, while constantly validating our assumptions, we are able to refine these assumptions. This helps to achieve user solutions more rapidly. One of the most important reasons to do research is to know who our users are including where and when they bounce off a site or application.
Defining the User
Everything about UX research starts with defining the users. We can create personas with assumptions to identify the user pain points and difficulties. Personas are user profiles outlining the demographic, user behaviors, as well as user needs and goals. After we create the hypothesis persona within a Lean UX approach, we should validate the proposition. To create a user-centric experience, we need to validate our assumptions with limited resources. One rapid way is through surveys which are a quick and affordable way to capture a better understanding of the needs and goals of the user. They can be sent out to many users and the information that comes back can be compiled and help create the UX. Interviews can capture user needs in a more personal setting unlocking behavior patterns as well as defining goals. Interview questions can be closed-ended or open-ended. An example of an open-ended question is "What do you want out of the site?" There may be several specific items the user will want, or they may provide a high-level description of what they are looking for. An example of a closed-ended question can be "Do you prefer open menus or pull out menus?" where there is only one answer. These two forms of survey questions allow you to get both concrete answers to specific questions you may have, as well as broader answers that include the unique perspectives of the individuals being interviewed.
We can also create two types of user validation questions: screening questions and interview questions. Screening questions are to prove whether the people you are interviewing fit in the correct segment of users. Interview questions are to validate the user hypothesis. The process of creating a hypothetical user profile (persona), interview validation, and learning from the end user defines the Lean UX approach of the build ? measure ? learn cycle. Applying this Lean UX approach can help a UX team define who the users are and what they are looking for, instead of making assumptions to later find out the UX is off target because the needs of the end user were not measured properly.
Although Lean UX may not be as in-depth as some of the other processes where traditional user research methods are used, it provides a maximum understanding of users, with limited time and resources. Through defining the audience segment, we identify their pain points and difficulties. From this information we create personas with certain assumptions. We then unlock behaviors, needs and goals through surveys or interviews analyzing the data to validate our assumptions. Finally, we revise the persona based on our findings. This is important because even if the project is just a website, what we find from this process will help with website strategy, understanding what drives a user to visit (and return to) the website, as well as the monetization of the website. Lean UX approach does not stop here. It should continue to apply to the next steps of user research, such as creating prototypes, and usability testing. What are some of your experiences with the Lean UX approach? Is there a different user experience process that you have found to be more beneficial? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @BFMweb to get the conversation started!