UX Book Review: Lean UX, Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience – Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden (5 practical takeaways)

This series aims at quickly summarizing UX books you know of and some you may not have read. We will outline 5 main practical takeaways from each book that you can use in your job, how long it takes to read the book and share balanced reviews on the book. Today’s UX book is Lean UX:Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience – Quick Summary

Inspired by Lean and Agile development theories, Lean UX lets you focus on the actual experience being designed, rather than deliverables. This book shows you how to collaborate closely with other members of the product team, and gather feedback early and often. You’ll learn how to drive the design in short, iterative cycles to assess what works best for the business and the user.

Book Reading Time: 4.1 Hours
Amazon Rating: 4.3 / 5

About the author
Jeff Gothelf is a designer & Agile practitioner. He is a leading voice on the topics of Agile UX & Lean UX and a highly sought-after international speaker. He is currently a Managing Director in Neo’s New York City office. Previously, Jeff has led teams at TheLadders, Publicis Modem, WebTrends, Fidelity, & AOL.

5 Main takeaways from Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

  1. Integrate UX Design into Agile Development:
    • Description: Lean UX advocates for embedding UX design deeply into the Agile development process. This involves frequent and ongoing collaboration between designers, developers, and product managers throughout the project lifecycle.
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    • Implementation: Ensure that UX designers are part of the Agile team, participating in all stages of planning, development, and iteration. Regularly hold collaborative sessions, such as design studios or critique sessions, to integrate feedback and ideas continuously.
  2. Focus on Hypothesis-Driven Design:
    • Description: Shift from delivering design artifacts to solving user problems by testing hypotheses. Formulate hypotheses about user behavior and validate them through experimentation.
    • Implementation: Start with clear problem statements and hypotheses. Use rapid prototyping and user testing to validate assumptions. For example, if you hypothesize that a new feature will improve user engagement, prototype it quickly and test it with a subset of users to gather feedback.
  3. Prioritize Continuous Learning and Adaptation:
    • Description: Lean UX emphasizes a cycle of continuous learning, where user feedback is constantly integrated into the design process to inform ongoing improvements.
    • Implementation: Implement regular usability tests and user interviews to gather insights. Use this data to iterate on designs frequently. For example, set up a feedback loop where user insights from each sprint inform the priorities and design adjustments in the next sprint.
  4. Create Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) for Testing:
    • Description: Use MVPs to test ideas with minimal investment, focusing on delivering just enough functionality to validate the core assumptions.
    • Implementation: Develop MVPs to test key features and gather user feedback before full-scale development. For instance, if you’re introducing a new user interface, create a simplified version that users can interact with to gather initial reactions and identify major issues.
  5. Promote Collaborative Decision-Making:
    • Description: Lean UX stresses the importance of shared understanding and decision-making within the team. By involving all team members in the UX process, you can leverage diverse perspectives and expertise.
    • Implementation: Facilitate workshops and design sprints that include all relevant stakeholders. Encourage open communication and collective problem-solving. For example, during a design sprint, involve developers, product managers, and marketers to brainstorm and refine ideas together.

Balanced Reviews on this book

“Loved it. Really straightforward easy to understand with great real-life examples and photos of how other companies, including some huge ones like PayPal, meetup.com, and Dropbox, implemented lean ux and the growing pains. Takes a lot of pressure off of designers and creates a more team-effort feel which is both scary (as I am a designer used to working in my little cave) and exciting. I rated 4 stars and not 5 because I would have liked some more detailed how-to’s for the entire process, and not just the concepts. Like how to include everyone throughout while battling with their time and availability for their primary jobs, how to make executive decisions when needed without being a hero or breaking the process. When changes are too small to have meetings and collaboration over, etc. all these little uncertainties I have make it scary but he mentions in most of his real-life stories that perfecting the lean us process was also a process and isn’t something that had to be perfectly executed the first time. I will be implementing this next month across the company and cities and am excited and a little sweaty to do it. 🙂 this book makes me feel more prepared… But I’ll still need to carry extra deodorant as I get started. :)” – Amazon reviewer

“Even though I am not directly involved in the UX world, most of our projects have at least one or more UX resources involved. Being a Scrum person in terms of execution, I’ve always struggled with how to best incorporate those UXers into the mix. This book not only lays out a much “leaner” approach than the typical User Centered Design (UCD) process, but gives real world examples on what this looks like in terms of a project setting. Although I did find the chapter of integrating LeanUX + Scrum lacking (hence the 4 instead of 5 stars), the book itself was a wealth of knowledge for all readers (not just those involved in UX). It opened my eyes to cross functional teams where the UX resource will become more of a facilitator and the developers could easily assist with being research assistants, scribes, and partnering with the UXers.
It has spawned my interest in how I can better assist in reducing documentation and fixating on the end product.”- Amazon reviewer

“I really enjoyed some of the concepts put forward in this book. It started strong and just when I thought we were getting into the real meat of the details, it turned out we were wrapping up. Would have loved some more detailed examples of applications and case studies, most examples were cursory and without detailed evidence. We got the description, but not the “why”. Most of my highlighting was in the first half of the book…” – Amazon reviewer

“I found this to be an okay book on the design process. It is primarily about software design, but some of the practices could be useful with other products as well. While the ideas presented are nothing new to anyone directly involved with customers or product design, it is still a good book to think about the process of design in an organization. It is not a book about how to do good design on any specific product, but rather on how to implement a specific “brand” of design process. For those who need to have a formal process in place, this one should work reasonably well. My biggest problem with it was the “brandedness” of the whole thing. There is a bit of “infomercial” style marketing flavor to the whole thing, and it seemed just a bit too much like a marketing piece itself (you know, for the “get my latest book” part of a business seminar).

There are lost of good ideas in here, but you will have to wade through a certain amount of what I call “capitalization disease” – using a lot of capitalized acronyms, brands, etc. – like the New Age people who capitalize words like “Cosmic” and “Energy” all the time to make a (supposedly) greater impact. Not the worst book on design, but more focused on setting up a design process than truly explaining how to understand the User Experience.” – Amazon reviewer

“The book is well organized and an easy read. I would say even if you are not focused on say Lean startup techniques, yet interested in removing waste as in the traditional Lean practices, then this is an essential read for Product Managers and Development team. I am highly recommending this to Product Owners and team members of Scrum teams as the Lean approach points to how one can get teams focused. The book could have done with better proof reading as errors in terminology may put folks off yet there are excellent elements of such as having a hypotheses and essentially taking a Scientific approach in testing the hypotheses. So sure the four Agile values are incorrectly stated as principles, and no doubt in the abstract one can confuse values and/or principles. In fact they could have provided some treatment to the twelve Agile principles […] in order to introduce a narrower set of principles as there are some overlapping principles. As someone already mentioned the 15 or so principles would have been better presented in a simpler form that is memorable.

The main thrust of the book is that early on in Software industry development was undertaken at the behest of someones best guess. Now, software development is no longer the new kid on the block and fortunately we now have tools and techniques learnt as a result of the past that pushes teams to be more deliberate with the choices they make versus a choice made in some ivory tower. Sure a higher level choice is made through company and product strategy. This hasn’t trickled down as easily as one would imagine and Lean UX shows a way in how one can focus on flow of ideas all the way to customer realizing value based on customer feedback and frequent learning that teams engage in.” – Amazon reviewer

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Calvin Pedzai

Analytical problem solver who enjoys crafting experiences and currently is the Senior UX designer at an awarding winning agency.