Lean User Experience Residency with LUXr

The Lean Startup movement is only a couple years old, and Customer Development as first described by Steve Blank isn’t too much older. So it was a bit of a shock for me to learn that there is a whole academic (and practical) discipline out there which has been doing something suspiciously close to Customer Development for well over two decades.

Not to put down Eric Ries, Patrick, Brant, etc., but that’s far more mature than anything Lean Startup has yet done. So I figure they’ve got something good to teach me.

Experience THIS!

The discipline is called Design. In particular, I’m interested in User Experience (UX) design.

When I first saw a few tweets from Tim McCoy on the subject of Lean User Experience (#leanUX), I figured he was another consultant looking to tap into the #leanstartup buzzword which is constantly gaining ground. But after reading more and meeting him over a pint, I understood that there was a depth of thought in the land of User Experience Design that could seriously benefit me.

UX designers have a whole host of tips, tricks, and tactics for eliciting customer feedback without leading the witness exactly where you wish they’d go. They have things like Personas, Information Radiators, Uses, Storyboards, and the magic of drafting dots.

Design isn’t just creating pretty pixels. It’s about how humans use your product.

Here’s a simplified taxonomy of design by Loren Baxter (originally published here)

  • Human-computer interaction is about paying attention to people and their relationship with computing.
  • Information architecture is about making things findable.
  • Interaction design is about making things usable.
  • Content strategy is about making things meaningful.
  • Experience design is about making things seamless.
  • Persuasive design is about making things influential.

The Blind Leading the Tone Deaf

Because we didn’t have a designer when I was doing product management for Secude, I had to teach myself what I could about wireframes, usability testing, color wheels, information architecture, etc.

Moving from a big company to startup land I found those skills were further enhanced by Customer Development. I could use my paper prototypes and get real immediate feedback on them without waiting for engineers to code them. I faked a few screencasts with photoshop as well.

Still, I was (and am) missing something. I want to go deeper and get a handle on UX as a discipline, so I signed up for Janice Fraser‘s 10 week Lean User Experience residency program (LUXr.co).

LUXr or Bust

The course is structured for teams to work on a project, so in the interests of keeping my vague reputation of someone with hustle I put together a team of two engineers, a designer, and myself over the weekend.

It’s called MonkeyMake.it 

We formed the team about 3 days before the first class started. We weren’t entirely sure what big startup idea we’d be working on, and to be honest after five weeks of the course we’re still not entirely sure. But we’re focusing on reinventing the publishing industry with writers in mind. It’s one part wiki style collaboration, one part marketing, and one part lean startup methodology in the LUXr.co crock-pot for 10 weeks.

MonkeyMake.it is an experiment in interactive publishing and viral creativity.

Over the last five weeks of the program, I’ll write some short articles on each of the techniques I’ve learned, how they relate to customer development, and how they’re being applied in the project I’m working on.

P.S.: If you want to hear more about the project, please follow @monkeymakeit 
P.P.S.: If you are (or know) a creative writer (preferably fiction) or avid readers, please contact me! We need more people to talk to.

So…what should I post next? Tweet to tell me what to write:

Show me how to test product market fit!

or

How can I do lean startup in my friggin' huge company?

3 comments

  1. Tristan:

    I love watching your startup unfold in LUXr, and can’t wait to hear how it turns out.

    I like your noticing of how design has been there before customer development. Another movement/discipline you might look at is Account Planning, how advertising evolved similar methods for similar reasons. A great book and fun read on the subject is “Truth, Lies and Advertising.”

    It’s fantastic that UX and Lean/Customer Development are coming together. I think there’s going to be an interesting way to pull in the smartest folks from marketing and advertising as well.

    Or perhaps it is that there are many ways to do this with many kinds of teams in different configurations. It’s always been the case that there are special CEOs, Product Mangers, Marketers, Engineers and others who’ve had a “design thinking” approach to the world. How fabulous that we are starting to see whole teams who share the approach as a value and bring different perspectives to it.

    • Tristan says:

      Awesome, thanks for the tip. I’ll have to check it out (along with my extensive LUXr reading list is exhausted.)

  2. Pingback: Designing in a Vacuum a.k.a Design != Pretty Pixels by @TriKro

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