AMA with Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX and co-founder of Sense & Respond Press
Last week on our UX community Slack channel, we hosted a live AMA with Jeff Gothelf, veteran product designer, team leader and coach, and award winning author of Lean UX, Sense & Respond and Lean vs Agile vs Design Thinking.
Jeff Gothelf has spent his career helping organisations build better products, while helping executives build the culture that builds better products. As well as being a prolific author and consultant, Jeff recently co-founded Sense & Respond Press, a publishing house for modern, transformational business books.
Basically, if you have a question about lean UX, agile, or design, he’s your guy – as we discovered during Jeff’s fascinating AMA.
Here are the highlights…
How can I convince leaders they need your help? [Mike G]
Does your company regularly review the feedback they get from customers (and staff)? That’s always a good place to start. I would find ways to gently expose them to ALL the customer feedback. Surface it at meetings, share it in newsletters, review it at all-hands meetings, ask about it in various situations. I once heard about a team that would post fake reviews in the google app market because they knew their execs read that stuff (and nothing else). Get creative.
Some solutions only have a business need but not a user need. What do you do in such cases? [Robin]
I always ask “what problem are we trying to solve with this feature?” and “how will customers benefit?” Generally the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ reaction is a good indicator that this is a dark pattern at which point you can raise the risk of negative reactions from customers.
How do you best explain a need for both market research and user research? [David]
Market research looks at the competitive landscape and general consumer trends. User research looks at your target audience and how they interact with your product. Both are necessary but are used in different contexts and to learn different things.
What resources could you point to that talk about the transition form `0 to 1` into a more mature product? [Greg]
Tough one… off the top of my head I’d have to say that iOS is one of those products. That is, they went from 0 to 1 in a lightning pace, but their path to maturity hasn’t been all success.
In which situations would you use Design Thinking and in which situations would you use Lean Startup? [Robin]
I find that the design thinking toolkit fits nicely into the ‘learn’ portion of build/measure/learn. That said, the tool you use should always be dependent on what you’re trying to learn.
As a beginner in the UX Design, what do you think are the bases I should focus on if i want to be ready when i get my first job as a UX Designer? [Sergio]
I’m not sure it’s realistic to *start* your career aware enough to be useful in ALL of these disciplines. If UX is your focus, interaction design and information architecture are a good place to start.
As someone more familiar with technical writing methods than UX, what would be a good approach to learning more about UX? [David]
Well, there is no shortage of UX material to choose from. depending on how you learn best there are endless books on the topic. I’d start with the classics (Norman’s ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ or Cooper’s ‘The Inmates Are Running the Asylum’). If you learn more visually, there are some great intro courses on Udemy and other related platforms.
What would you say were the top 3 principles of Lean UX that one should focus on? [Ollie]
1. Manage outcomes (over outputs)
2. Re-frame work as a problem to solve, not a solution to implement
3. Be willing to change course in the face of evidence
But all of these are incredibly difficult to do especially in highly resistant organisations. I would start with #2. Ask, “What problem are we trying to solve with this feature?” and, “How will we know we got it right?” In other words, what will our users be doing differently if we succeed?”
Do you have any advice for a researcher who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed about the expectation of knowing more than I actually do? [Frankie]
All of us have impostor syndrome at one time or another. that said, kudos to you for jumping in the deep end. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn because you have to. Between now and your start date, start doing some research on the target audience for the new company, competition, who’s the market leader, why are they the leader, etc… come in with some data in hand. it will help you hit the ground running.
Have there been any misunderstandings/mis-learnings that people have taken from your book on Lean UX? [Scott]
Tons. People have thought that it means not doing any research (it doesn’t). People have thought it means we don’t do any kind of deliverables anymore (it doesn’t). People have used it as an excuse to not do design at all (they misunderstood). I could go on…
How do I get my first gig as a UX designer because most companies also tell me to learn how to code after passing the initial design test? [Tiwalolu]
I think if a company is asking you to learn to code they’re not looking for a UX designer. That said, knowing the material with which you’re working as a UX designer is always helpful. It doesn’t mean you have to be a production-level coder but it helps to understand how the sausage is made.
Does lean UX workflow create more “debt” in terms of technology and design when compared against traditional workflows? [Nenad]
Lean UX does not create more debt. In fact, it creates less because your investments in the design/dev of the product are only increased (including the hardening of the code) when that level of effort is justified with evidence. If it isn’t you can just throw it all away (because no one will use it) and any “debt” you may have had in the product goes away with it.
I understand Lean UX is great when working with a single product oriented team. But compared to traditional agency workflows, where a team roster on the project is flexible, it seems to break down. However, if an agency is running several projects, with dedicated teams to specific single products, it may work. But there seems to be a gap between those teams and middle-to-upper management. What’s your take on this? [Nenad]
Agencies struggle to implement Lean UX as a process for many reasons.
The main reason is that you cannot impose a way of working on a client who doesn’t want to work this way. So if you want to run experiments, and build cross-functional teams but your client only knows traditional SDLC than it will always break down.
The second main reason for this struggle in agencies is that most agencies don’t sell outcomes. They sell output. They sell a feature, an app, a website or a system. This is what clients are looking for. They don’t want to buy experiments. The agency gets paid for delivering a product. If your process invalidates the need for the product, the client may not actually care because that’s not what they thought they were paying you for.
The way to make this work is to have an agency that actually sells time/materials and takes work that is trying to achieve outcomes and clients who want to collaborate. If you set those expectations and stick with them in your sales/procurement process you stand a chance of making Lean UX work in an agency.
What do you find the most effective way to pitch the value of Lean UX? Specifically, larger companies that consider iterations waste and center on command & control setups like SAFe or waterfall? [Leon]
In theory SAFe is supposed to be an iterative process. In reality, it is not. The latest version of SAFe includes mentions of Lean UX and Lean Startup. This is helpful only in that it provides you the “safety” to bring these ideas up within the context of the SAFe way of working. If you want to try and break through this, I would push here and there to introduce one tactic from Lean UX into the way your team works. See how that tactic improved things and use that small win to ask for more changes in the way you work together.
Have you ever seen a situation where a pure Lean UX approach wasn’t right and that it had to take from other approaches in order to deliver better? [Hugo]
I’d say nothing is ever pure. The most successful processes I’ve seen borrow bits and pieces from each other. There are always going to be situations where the risk is low and the certainty is high. In those situations there’s not a whole lot of need for hypotheses, design studios, heavy research, etc….we just build and design in those cases.
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.