What's Lean Experience Design?
Lean experience design draws from the lean startup movement as well as a related design evolution from the preciousness of pixel-perfection to a celebration of the beauty of a living product that's co-evolved by its creators and its consumers. Some non-exclusive values that come to mind around how we practice lean experience design are:
Design as Problem Solving
Designers don't work to create art but instead approach each challenge as a problem to be solved through a series of experiments.
You Don't Know What You Don't Know
Each new product presents new problems, and you won’t fully understand them at the start. Instead of spending weeks defining the “full” problem and the “full” solution, break it down to smaller, more understandable pieces that help you better define your work.
Just in Time Deliverables
The goal is to create the minimum level of deliverables. Quick sketches and living prototypes instead of fully annotated wireframe decks. Living moving prototypes, not layered photoshop files. Every thing that needs to be created should be evaluated as to why it's needed.
Two heads are better than one. Pairing up with someone else - whether it's an interaction + a visual designer, a designer + a developer, business strategist + front end developer - allows for mutual co-education, problem solving with immediate feedback, and a broader exchange of ideas.
So where's the delight?
It might be tempting to dismiss or reduce the value of a designer on a technically-focused project to be somewhat tactical, as the person who delivers production assets or just waves the "make it pretty" wand at the end of the project. And there is definitely value in doing those things. However, there are several ways to look beyond tactical design to reach true delighters in a product.
1. Understand the product value proposition.
To understand a product, there needs to be an understanding of the business outcomes it seeks to achieve as well as the intended users' motivations and needs. The design and technology layer need to vanish to let people go about their lives and for the product to enhance their lives.
2. Continuous validation through user feedback.
User feedback yields a ton of data around successful task completion and usefulness of the product, all of which help to provide iterations to the core product. However, there's a separate path of validation that can search for delighters. When you start to show people the product, sometimes there's politeness wanting to complete the task to please you, the asker. And there are areas of frustration that will hopefully become obvious. But you’ll know you've found a delighter when there's a Wow! moment from the users you're talking to.
- Wow, this is an awesome thing that solves my problems
- Wow, that's a nifty doo-hicky that makes me smile
- Wow, I've never seen that before
- Wow, I can't wait to tell someone about this
It's key to solve problems, but to design for delighters, it's more important to pay attention to the areas of Wow and maximize for more of them.
3. Build Wow into the MVP
With lean/agile, the focus on speed leads to a lot of discussion about the minimum viable product (MVP), the smallest/earliest version of the product that can be released. Teams often then concentrate on a minimum feature set, the basics that someone may expect the product to do. In contrast, the Kano model of product / customer satisfaction suggests that reaching for this low bar is a mistake. The Kano model talks in similar terms about this basic feature set, with increased focus on how to actually set your product apart in the market. For example, if your bank couldn’t give you an accurate statement of your account each month, you would drop that bank, but having this feature doesn't really do anything to distinguish it from others in the field.
If we move beyond the basics (and we should), we should think about the “viable” in MVP as including the delighters that surprise and establish a big initial Wow! moment. These delighters need to continuously evolve as today's delighter may become a must-have feature. When mobile banking first allowed consumers to deposit a check by taking a photo, it was a delighter. Yet now, just a couple of years later, it's become more of a basic feature that all banks are expected to have as a cost of doing business. The bar for delight (and thus viability) keeps moving, and designers need to plan for that. The key is to shoot for these delighters when defining the MVP, realizing that “viable” is as important as “minimum” in an MVP.
Lean experience design focuses on maximizing value, but it shouldn’t do so at the expense of minimizing the potential for customer delight. Instead, that delight should be an active goal of the process, bringing a little bit of happiness through the products we build. As designers, that would make us happy ourselves.
And now, here’s some Louis CK. How’s that for some end of reading delight? \
Main image of Casa Batlló from Łukasz Dzierżanowski.