Lean UX is Nothing New

One of the most frequent critiques I hear about Lean UX is that it’s not new and that designers have been working this way for years.

Debunking Lean UX Myths

A lot of people have an opinion about Lean UX. Some are based on knowledge and facts, while others seem to appear out of the blue. In this series Jeff Gothelf debunks some of the myths.

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If you’re one of the designers who have always worked this way consider yourself particularly lucky. The overwhelming majority of designers working today — those in the bowels of banks, pharma companies and within agencies — work in a very linear, document-heavy process that demands up front definition (typically in a silo), offers late or no customer validation and delivers a fraction of the right experience with no ability to react to change mid-stream.

What’s interesting here is that while this all seems tactical, by pushing for a collaborative, cross-functional process UX designers are becoming grassroots strategic players. They are shifting the culture of their organization one project team at a time and pushing for a more agile and sustainable process. As these techniques take hold, the organization becomes more productive, efficient and effective. The organizational perception of the UX designer becomes more of a design facilitator, a UX *leader* and ultimately a company leader. This is the grassroots success that buys strategic access at higher levels of the organization.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether Lean UX is something new or a tried-and-true methodology that’s been practices for years. Even less important is what name you or your organization give it. As long as you’re working in this collaborative, iterative fashion you are approaching validated designs in a much more efficient way and no one is going to criticize you for not “doing” Lean UX or Agile or Agile Fall or whatever you call your process.

By working this way you are building new communication channels with other practitioners in your organization. These new channels facilitate the building of shared understanding which does not always have to manifest as a written document. Sometimes a conversation, a whiteboard sketch, a phone call or meeting can serve the same purpose as a Word document.

Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf has spent a 14 year career as an interaction designer, Agile practitioner, user experience team leader and blogger. He is one of the founding partners of Proof and one of the leading voices on the topic of Agile UX and Lean UX. In addition, Jeff is the author of the upcoming O'Reilly book (2012), Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business.

2 comments on this article

  1. Marcin Treder on

    Jeff – well written. Absolutely agree! Can’t wait to read the book. Best wishes from whole UXPin team!

  2. Adrian on

    Thank you! I am sure some bubbles are burst, but you hit the nail on the head.

    I work in structured corp tech environment (250+), and UI/UX has never been about heavy process and documentation. If it were we would never get anything done and no one would want to work with us internally.

    Some folks are stuck in situations so a “formal” title for a process, that eliminates the useless, may help them find the bliss of just doing things.