You have probably heard the terms Lean UX and Agile UX many times in the context of user experience but you could be forgiven for not being sure what the difference is between them. Superficially they do appear to have similar characteristics with Lean UX advocating a stripped down, fast approach to product development and Agile championing a strategy that enables quick response to market opportunities by using collaborative, flexible working.
Which of these is the better strategy – and, more importantly which is better for your organisation/product and the user experience – can be a difficult question to answer.
Let us look at each one in slightly more detail and then discuss which approach works better in given circumstances.
Lean design is based on the principles of nimble collective development and user experience informing the process. In other words it seeks quick, unbureaucratic working methods that take user information and experience as starting points and develop products that can be swiftly validated against these principles. It looks for the simplest way of producing a minimum viable product and then lets users decide how it develops.
The Agile design model values individuals and collaboration over process and focuses very much on flexibility and response. It is intended to make the process user-centric and sensitive to input and feedback as the development proceeds and not getting bogged down in formality or paperwork if opportunities to innovate and advance present themselves.
The main difference between the two techniques would appear to be that Lean UX focuses on the user and meeting their needs in product development while Agile is more about efficient communication and cooperation in delivering the project.
Perhaps when it comes to the question of which process should you use it would be better framed as ‘which principles should I apply in different parts of the development process and in differing situation or circumstances’. There is a degree of commonality in the two sets of principles anyway with both seeking early customer input and validation and a dynamic, flexible approach being applied. There is also a significant degree of iteration in both styles.
Many projects will intuitively incorporate elements of both strategies as certain aspects relate better to particular types of project or context. For example, where the parameters and objectives of a project are pre-determined and fixed, Agile design might present the better solution as it offers a quicker defined route to completion and enables you to identify and structure the delivery steps.
Where less certainty exists in a project, lean design offers the opportunity to quickly test hypotheses on real users and develop successive interim products that increasingly meet user needs and preferences. It might take you longer to get to the ultimate product but it will have been thoroughly tried and tested when you get there. Lean design, therefore. Will probably work better where less is known about the ultimate user and their preferences or where the elements of the product are complex and numerous.
This is quite a difficult area with many subtle nuances and differences to understand. If you are interested in either Agile or Lean UX , why not ring us on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an initial chat.