Jeff Gothelf on Lean User Experience

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Today on Radio Johnny, Jeff Parks talks with Jeff Gothelf, Director of User Experience at The Ladders from the 2011 IA Summit about Lean User Experience.

Inspired by Agile and Lean methodologies, Lean UX is the practice of bringing the true nature of our work to light, faster with less emphasis on the deliverables and greater focus on the actual experiences being designed.


Lean UX takes a different approach and says: What if we worked more collaboratively, focused more on the end state – the experience we are actually trying to design – instead of the documentation…iterated quickly, worked more efficiently, and brought the true nature of the work to light, faster?

The concept of Lean…came from Toyota’s manufacturing process. They focus on minimizing waste from a process. Lean UX really does the same thing. Lean UX doesn’t mean that we are doing less work… we’re looking at the full spectrum of tools in our own toolkit…all are still viable in the Lean process. We are deciding which tool to use at the right time and at the right depth. Just enough design. Just at the right time.

Every iteration will start to bear some of the fingerprints of those contributions from other team members. As soon as they start to see that, there’s a greater investment and ownership in the product itself; so the quality of the product will inevitably go up at that point… a developer, a product manager, a designer are far more invested in the work when you say “Here’s a problem let’s go solve this” instead of “Hey I’ve solved the problem – go build this!”


Jeff shares how integrating Agile and UX forced his team to think in new ways, inspiring questions such as: How can we define and design the experience in lighter ways? How do we break down misconceptions and bottlenecks triggered by long design cycles and collaborate better with our teammates? This questions pushed the team to go lighter and leaner, with the greatest outcome, that of teams learning to trust one another.

Jeff also discusses how Lean UX can help move design professionals away from traditional deliverables in many ways including: rapid iterations based on low-fidelity articfacts; faster customer validation; and breaking down communication barriers between multi-disciplinary teams by focusing on conversation over documentation.

Show Notes

* Follow Jeff on Twitter.
* Jeff Gothelf on Slideshare.
* Smashing Magazine: Lean UX – Getting out of the Deliverables Business
* Cooper: Lean UX, Product Stewardship, and Integrated Teams
* UX Booth: Can User Experience Designers be Lean?


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Jeff Parks

Jeff is the co-founder of DIGIA UX Inc. and actively collaborates with industry professionals from around the world through his involvement with Boxes and Arrows and Johnny Holland. Jeff is also leading workshops on Information Architecture and User Experience Design over at Follow the UX Leader, in addition to volunteering his time as a Mentor and Member of the Board of Directors for the Information Architecture Institute.

3 comments on this article

  1. Great to see you interviewing Jeff Gothelf – he’s an important thinker and leader in the UX/Agile world.

  2. Thanks Phil! :)

    Jeff G is a gentleman and a scholar – it was a real pleasure meeting him at the Summit and learning from his experiences.

    If you would like to hear ideas from other thought leaders, please let me know and I’d be pleased to set up subsequent conversations.

    As I tell my guests in advance of every discussion – these shows not about me – but rather the ideas and experiences that will help others in the design community.

    Cheers! :)

  3. Peter H on

    “The concept of Lean…came from Toyota’s manufacturing process. They focus on minimizing waste from a process. Lean UX really does the same thing. ”

    Wouldn’t it be better not to look at the manufacturing process/concepts/ideas, but at the Product Development process/concepts/ideas?