Home > UX and Prototyping > Cheap Vs Lean: the UX culture debate

Are you Cheap or are you Lean? Discussing the current UX climate and how exercising the Lean approach in your team could help you to grow your ideas and create real solutions.

Lean Methodology, developed by Eric Ries in 2008, is a process for delivering products and businesses. Chronicled in his 2011 book “The Lean Startup”, Ries’ methodology is based on Lean Manufacturing concepts, as developed by the Japanese in the automotive industry in the 1980s. For lean practitioners, a basic, untried idea is the only thing they can hope for when kicking off a new venture. Companies that implement the Lean approach are typically faced with there are limited resources. Their task is to translate their initial ideas into practical solutions as quickly as possible. But does this mean that their process should be cheap? No, not quite.

Let’s explore the characteristics of Lean in UX culture and how it differs from ‘cheap’ culture.

Difference No1: put learning before your budget

For those working in a Lean startup environment, looking for the most efficient fit between market need and business offer is the main objective. The Lean approach is all about understanding your target market before you start building your product, to ensure that it’s something your customers not only need, but actually want right now.

Lean asks the following questions:

  • What urgent problem keeps your target customer does your customer want fixed?
  • If this problem is fixed, how will it affect them?
  • Are you able to solve this problem?

As Ramli John explains in his post: “instead of focusing on getting funding, we should be “focusing our energy on speeding up learning through the build-measure-learn cycles”. When we apply the Lean Process we keep teams small, to enable effective communication and flexibility to answer to the demands of the ever-changing markets. Whilst ‘cheap’ companies’ concerns will primarily be for their budget, Lean startups will focus first and foremost on discovering unique and efficient solutions, so learning always comes before currency.

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Difference No2: skimping Vs thinking smart

Let’s make things clear: when it comes to Lean, it’s not always about doing things quicker and cheaper. Lean is thinking about finding the right way to spend resources. As Gene Marks explains here, “Lean business owners value time as much as money, and are always looking for ways to do things faster”. And more now than ever, it’s all about creating a better user experience –  for more on this, check out our post on Lean UX Vs Agile UX. This does not mean that Lean practitioners sacrifice quality. Good business, Lean or otherwise, is about knowing the customer, and their value, and looking to provide a more personal, useful experience.

“Startups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources. Time between these iterations is fundamental.” – Eric Ries

Skipping or skimping on important parts of the UX process to avoid spending money is not the Lean way of thinking. Lean practitioners focus on thinking smartly about how to make the UX process faster yet spend money more effectively. This is not about being cheap – it’s about being smart.

Difference No3: waste not want not

Lean is all about eliminating waste. For a startup, “waste” is anything that doesn’t get used by an end client. Your product should have just the right amount of functionality, getting to the core of the problem and satisfying the client’s most important needs. This is what will trigger them to buy from you, and hopefully becoming a loyal customer.

If you’re always looking for a cheap way of doing things, chances are you’re looking for the cheapest price, and not focusing on quality. When the budget is always the first thing on the table, things get missed out, such as marketing and content. In comparison, Lean companies are looking for the right price. Although Lean startups are typically careful not to overpay, quality is always the most important variable. Marks explains that “being lean means targeting your spending to those areas that will create the best experience for your customer and still give you the greatest return“. This includes hiring the best people for the job and making purchases that comply with your business objectives above all else.

And remember: Lean practitioners do invest. It’s just that their investment has direction and focus, is carefully chosen and is always backed up by reliable analytics in an effort to “prove that the resources spent are returning value“. So, if you’re looking for Lean: focus on how much money is spent or focus on how and when money is spent.

Difference No4: is it really better to be safe than sorry?

When it comes to the Lean UX culture, you’ve got to acknowledge that uncertainty is high at the beginning of a venture. Maybe this sounds obvious. However, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs alike don’t always behave as if they understand the implications of high uncertainty. With Lean methodology, you shouldn’t be concentrating on refining and perfecting your ideas so early on, when uncertainty is so high. At this stage, you should keep your ideas rough and shape them just enough to be able to test the underlying assumptions. If you’re constantly worried about playing it safe, you’ll never learn from your failures. You’ve got to learn how to adapt.

Running a lean business isn’t just about budgets, it’s about mindsets and thinking smart. Exploring the needs and validating the wants of your market is not cheap, but it is cheaper than building something that you think everybody needs but in reality nobody wants. What better way to kick-start your ideas and turn them in to usable designs than with a comprehensive prototyping platform? Download Justinmind today and explore how you can build a Lean design process for your team!

Emily is Marketing Content Editor at Justinmind

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