People wonder what differs between what has been called Agile UX for a while now and the new kid on the block, Lean UX. My take on the question is that UX designers who have entered the agile community early have needed to define their own set of tools to work tightly together with the agile developers. Agile UX is all about collaboration. There are really no hints in the agile literature on how to incorporate UX. The UX designers in the agile teams have been caught in a frantic struggle to adjust their old tools and deliverables to whatever seems to fit in the agile environment. Meanwhile, the agile people have moved on (or the early adopters at least) from “old” agile methods such as XP and Scrum to Kanban and Lean methods. The new Agile UX methods of collaboration, such as cross-functional pairing and all-out team design studio sessions work in these new settings as well.

With Eric Ries’ book Lean Startups, which has become a sort of bible in the hands of these early adopters, Eric takes the Lean approach all the way and explains how to focus on business value with the help of validated learning (build-measure-learn-loop), customer archetypes (personas), etc. This is easy for a UX designer to grasp and it brings a clear vision of what business value is. This is the base of LeanUX, which is focusing on validation. The practices in Lean UX are often called common sense, because for a UX designer it is, since we have been brought up on discussion about business and customer value.

Lean UX works in agile environments and that is only because Lean and Agile are closely related. If you are benificial to change (a lot of people aren’t, especially some developers, and this is why Kent Beck’s first XP-book, aimed at developers, is subtitled “Embrace change“), then it is not a problem slashing away at your own methods, killing your method darlings so to speak, to end up in something that would work in agile environments. But, overall, I feel that UX-people (me included) have always only talked about killing your method darlings, but never, as Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden phrase it, about “getting out of the deliverables business“. Lean UX is all about finding out what actually delivers business value, not spending time on deliverables such as huge information architecture diagrams and unused wireframes. This still means that some things need to be thoroughly done, even if the agile environment do not think so, the things that gives actual value.

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