What I Learned this Week: People Need Something to Look at.

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I recently attended Lean UX Day in NYC. It was great. There were a lot of the same tools and concepts that have been going around the user experience (UX) design community for several years but with some new twists, all of which I should write about soon.

One of the new wrinkles I’ve been reading about is the move away from creating documents like wireframes  (i.e. line drawings) and visual mockups. The IT industry has been doing less documentation for several years in the spirit of iterative (i.e. agile) development, and UX is getting there too.

What I learned the hard way in the last week has been that people will always need something they can see, or better yet put their hands on. Back in NYC one of the stories told was about the designer, business lead, and developer all sitting around the table talking about ideas and when they had something solid the designer asking the developer if he should create some wireframes or mockups, but to everyone’s surprise the developer responded, “No, I think I’ve got it just about built out here.” Nobody had noticed he’d been using libraries of publicly available code to build a 80% polished experience.

Right away they had something to look at, to touch. There was no lag between the idea generation and experience creation. Back on the job, I made what is now an obvious mistake. The schedule was tight and people already had their plates full with other work.

I pressed our content manager/builders for a few pages worth of a proof of concept, but even after we had some technical issues worked out, a bit of copy, and a view visual design ideas put together, the overall concept didn’t hang together. Nobody, except for me, who can have a propensity for seeing things in my head but not always communicating every detail to teammates, could see it.

The problem, you can’t do lean non-documented design, without creating something. The beauty of lean design is that its practitioners have worked to discover how to (1) get really good at targeting exactly what the objective of a design is, sometimes called the minimum viable product (MVP) and (2) get really good at building the infrastructure to quickly assemble the parts and pieces needed to deliver that objective by creating and using libraries of components rather than hand crafting every aspect of an experience.

The solution, In order to  actually do lean UX, you’ve got to focus on making sure you have your business criteria (MVP) and if you don’t actually create something, people won’t understand it.

If all you do is rush people, keep iterating, and don’t quite have anything tangible to show when others expect specific requests and time to work all you’ll have are frustrated people around you.

You have to make something.

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