Lean UX in an Agency Environment


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Much of the thought around Lean UX focuses on design groups within product organizations (startups and enterprises). What happens when you try to use Lean design methodologies inside of an agency.

This presentation was given at the Lean UX Meetup in San Francisco on May 30, 2012.

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  • How many in startups or product organizations?\nHow many in agencies?\n
  • Great definition of Lean UX that hits on some of the key points:\nGet from idea to experience as quickly as possible\nDecrease risk and waste\nDesign experiences, not documents\nWork in integrated, highly collaborative teams\n\nThe original article was fairly heavy-handed in its view of “deliverables”\n\n
  • At a practical level, it looks like this. \nThis impacts not just your design process, but your entire toolkit and style of working.\n\n\n
  • There’s a natural affinity between this approach to design and the startup world.\n\nDovetails with the whole “Lean Startup” movement.\nAgile development is a natural ally, since it’s predicated on multiple, iterative cycles where you constantly refine your work.\nYour teams are generally small, and everyone (product, design, development) is sitting together.\nContinuous integration practices keep the build green and allow for regular introduction of new designs into a working product environment.\n\nMost of the thought around Lean UX is based on how to implement this inside of a product organization.\n
  • That sounds great, but what if you don’t work client-side?\n\n\n
  • At first glance, almost every aspect of how design agencies are run and structured goes against the tenets of Lean UX.\nProcess is linear and design to manage scope and ensure that what is defined at the beginning is what comes out at the end.\nLots of specialization: visual designers, user experience designers, information architects, user researchers, etc. Natural way to scale.\nSeparation into different functional silos. The creative process is seen as “magic”, resulting in a big reveal. \nSOWs are based on deliverables (wireframes, comps, templates). \nBut what we’re really trying to do is deliver an experience. Everything else is just a different way to represent it.\n\n\n\n
  • So there are some pretty important differences between the way these two kinds of organization approach design. \n
  • The question is whether these are inherently blocking the adoption of Lean UX principles, or rather just different opportunities to innovate.\n\n
  • So there are some pretty important differences between the way these two kinds of organization approach design.\nSome of these are inherent and driven by the client organization.\nIf the client works agile, you can work within that. But if they are watefall, it’s hard to be agile.\nCultural change is the hardest, because we’re used to design happening in a black box.\n\n\n
  • Given all of that, there’s still a lot I think we can do to be more Lean without completely rethinking the agency model.\n\nThere was a recent blog posting by the ECD of AKQA asking whether agencies should be more like startups.\n\n
  • Get the “think > make > check” mentality into the way you work and make sure there you can incorporate the feedback.\nUse goals as a way to measure, or check. \nFigure out how what constitutes success and make sure you have that part nailed.\nGreat design ideas come from everywhere. Collaboration with developers is more than just checking for technical feasability. \nDeliverables should facilitate understanding and communication. They are not the end product.\n\n
  • Here are some simple techniques you can use to make your traditional process more lean.\n\n
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  • Start with a story.\nSketch out the user journey. What are key paths to success?\nDoes it follow a known pattern or interaction? How confident are you that it’s the right solution?\n
  • make it interactive.\n
  • lean UX is not anti-deliverables, but what we design needs to more closely model the end experience.\nFalse positives from static artifacts.\n
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  • Lean UX in an Agency Environment

    1. 1. Lean UX in an Agency EnvironmentJef BekesCreative Director, User Experience Design, SolutionSetSF Lean UX Meetup, May 30, 2012
    2. 2. What is Lean UX?“Lean UX brings the true nature of design work tolight faster, in a collaborative, cross-functional waywith less emphasis on deliverables and greaterfocus on the actual experience being designed.”-Jeff Gothelf, “Lean UX: Getting out of the Deliverables Business”
    3. 3. Process and activities• Lean: Think » Make » Check (repeat)• Lean UX: Sketch » Prototype » Test (repeat) You do stuff like this:• Pattern libraries• Collaborative sketching• Iterative design cycles• Rapid prototyping• Frequent testing• Designing in the browser/codebase
    4. 4. This is great if you work at a startup • Natural affinity with startups (i.e. Lean Startup) • Agile development has taken hold with software teams • Small, co-located teams, working in close collaboration • Cycle time from idea to implementation is short
    5. 5. But we work at a design agency! http://www.flickr.com/photos/b-tal/163450213/sizes/l/in/photostream/
    6. 6. A typical (big) agency• Linear methodologies, still rooted in waterfall• Change is seen as bad, rather than inevitable• Strong divisions of labor, based on specialization and need to scale• Separation of teams: Project (client), Design (agency) Dev (agency, client or third party)• Progress is measured in “deliverables”
    7. 7. Startup vs. agency *Startup Agency• Team: Product, design, and • Team: Project (client), dev integrated, co-located design (agency), and dev• Process: Agile (agency, client or third party) separated• Artifacts: Prototypes, • Process: Waterfall working code• Culture: Engineering driven, • Artifacts: Wireframes, lots of collaboration comps, templates • Culture: Design-driven, division of labor, lots of specialization* I know, these are stereotypes
    8. 8. Roadblocks
    9. 9. Roadblocks or opportunities? • Teams: There will still be a division of labor - that’s why they hired an agency • Process: Should the agency’s methodology match the client’s? • Artifacts: We still need “deliverables” are required to capture functionality. • Culture: Does collaboration “open the kimono” on the creative process? Where’s the “magic”?
    10. 10. How do we get there? http://www.flickr.com/photos/giovanni_novara1/5263134384/sizes/l/
    11. 11. Some tactics • Build iteration into the process, even if you’re still working in a waterfall process: Think » Make » Check • Define goals up-front and use as an objective measuring criteria for the design • Start from the “minimum viable experience” and design outward • Collaborate not just within the design group, but also across disciplines (and even with the client!) • Understand who your deliverables are for and
    12. 12. Some techniques • Design patterns • Sketching • Prototyping • Usability testing
    13. 13. Design patterns
    14. 14. What are design patterns? • Reusable components to solve commonly occurring problems within an application • Build out a library as a common reference point for designers and developers • Spend your time designing the complex interactions, not the best practices • Use an interactive framework (Bootstrap) or roll your own • Good way to get developers involved in the design process • Bonus: customize your pattern library to double
    15. 15. http://www.flickr.com/photos/etchasketchist/728571856/sizes/l/in/photostream/Sketching
    16. 16. Sketch to generate concepts• Identify the “minimum viable experience”: key flows/interactions/screens that are critical to success or have the most complexity/unknowns• Run a “charette” to sketch out as many different solutions as possible• These designs as hypotheses to be validated, not set in stone• Take your best first guess and validate it (interactive prototype, higher fidelity design, etc)
    17. 17. http://www.flickr.com/photos/altuwa/4530651461/sizes/l/Prototyping
    18. 18. Design experiences, not documentation • Wireframes are good way to inventory what belongs on a screen, but don’t capture interactivity, affordance, and flow • An interactive prototype will allow you to test both the “look” and the “feel” of the design • You can do this in parallel with design if you partner with your front-end dev team • Prototypes can be different levels of fidelity (visual and interactive) • HTML/CSS/JS is nice, but you can also make quick prototypes using other tools
    19. 19. User research and usability testing http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinsteele/473602975/sizes/l/in/photostream/
    20. 20. Validate your hypotheses • Use personas as a way to quickly define tasks and goals • Test against the most important task • An interactive prototype is great, but you can go lo-fi, too • Do it even if it’s not built into the schedule • Guerrilla testing: does not need to be formal or expensive • If you wait until the end, you won’t be able to change direction
    21. 21. Discussion • What does it mean for agencies to emulate startups? It’s more than just understanding technology. • How does the size of the agency affect the way you work? Small agencies can be more nimble and avoid the common pitfalls. • How to be iterative if you’re working on a fixed bid? How do you scope it? • What deliverables are truly necessary? Who are they for? What is waste?
    22. 22. Thank youJef Bekesjef.bekes@solutionset.com @jbekes We’re hiring! www.solutionset.com