Doctor Digital, What is Lean UX? Is this a tech thing, or something anyone can apply to give themselves a business advantage?
Doctor Digital Says
Great question! Lean UX or lean user experience or lean design as it is also called does have its foundations in the tech scene, and is used by startups developing products to shorten the cycle from idea to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) entering the market and into the hands of their consumers.
With startups, they are solving problems a little differently to many small businesses, start ups by definition are taking a disruptive product to market that hasn’t been proven before, and have a need to be agile and experiment a lot to refine their idea and achieve product market fit.
The absolute heart of this concept is that the user of a product is the best person to tell you about their experience of the product and how you can improve it. In Lean UX, you are constantly iterating or improving your product in an endless cycle so it is never finished, but always improving on the user experience with new and improved features.
Many small businesses are creating a business that already has market approval such as a café, a food truck, a retail business or a tour company. But just because those are known quantities doesn’t mean they can’t borrow the methodology from tech companies to continue to innovate in their own sector and business. I think this approach gives small business an undeniable edge, and why not adopt tricks and hacks to keep you lean and ahead of the game? And most importantly, to stop you making some terminal assumptions about your customers that can cost big money when they don’t land!
Remember the old saying ‘the customer is always right?’ In a way Lean UX measures the 'fit' of customers against your business owner hypothesis about who you are as a business. There is also a saying in the tech world about developing products, that you need to ‘get out of the building’, which means you have to engage with the real world to design your product.
One of the advantages that small businesses have is that they are already 'out of the building' as their business is largely already delivering products that people need and want. The canny shift a small business can make is to see their business and products as something that is constantly iterating – and many do, as that is the way that longevity happens. Lean UX helps you do that better, faster and ideally makes you more revenue at the end.
The Lean UX model is user centered, as all good businesses are - by building products and services that most meet your customers known and unknown needs, you are likely to keep the cash register singing. The biggest mistake many small business owners make, and one of the reasons that the fail rate for small businesses remains so high, is that before they open the doors they don’t test their hypothesis that other people in sufficient quantities want and need what they are going to offer. So they pursue their dream only to find that they are the (only) ones who want it most. So how to avoid heart and wallet break? The answer is testing and measuring. I know, this isn’t the fun creative part of business like branding or designing, but it is the part that will validate your choice of all those other things.
How to do Lean UX for small business then, is just like how you do it for startups and tech. Firstly, be clear on who your customer is and why they need your new or improved product or service. Interview a lot of them, and by interview I mean have face to face conversations that let them tell you what they need, what they want, what problems they need solving, and whether your idea might be able to do that. Be aware of your biases, of course you love your brand, product and idea, but you need to hear all the constructive criticism as it will give you remarkable insight. Ideally, you have a sample or a MVP for them to see and play with at this stage and give you feedback on, and then you can integrate that feedback as you continue to iterate.
This isn’t just for bricks and mortar products, you would use this for a new website, a new e-commerce experience, a variation of your services, anything where how the customer experiences your brand will be altered. In a nutshell, what you are doing is as simple and swift as working out the numbers that drive your business (where your highest revenue is achieved), what customer problems can you better solve to improve those numbers, finding the way to do that, doing it, then measuring if the hypothesis was validated. If it is – then implementation time, with ongoing follow up in the metrics of how it landed. If it isn’t - then you have gained invaluable intel from your customers and in the process have probably revealed the next hypothesis to be tested – and so the virtuous cycle continues. Never stop iterating!