Recently I came across this video, showing a Lean UX innovation team from Nordstrom using personas and user flow analysis to create a new consumer facing app in one week. They did this while co-locating with customers in a store. What a great approach!
The idea behind Lean UX is to get a real understanding of who the user (not buyer!) is. This is done by thinking through market segmentation, and using interview and observation to develop rich personas to represent those people. On site, the team works to understand the problem those personas are trying to solve–in the context in which they’re trying to solve those problems! One might call that “problem-market fit.” Rapid prototyping, iterating and testing with users are techniques to work towards “product-market fit,” where you’ve found a viable solution to the problem you identified. Note the distinction: First, you’re identifying and confirming that there really is a market problem; secondly, you’re finding a viable solution to that problem. Halfway isn’t enough. When you’ve done both, that’s when you have something worth scaling.
The trick to this approach is to use lightweight prototyping techniques, rather than exhaustive pixel-perfect renditions. This allows a design to be iterated within hours. This is one of the key points Jeff Gothelf talks about in his team’s approach at The Ladders. Another important point: Gothelf’s process involves the whole team in design. This is also a widely accepted practice. Marty Cagan’s concept of product discovery involves having the 3-member team of product manager, lead engineer and lead interaction designer working together, as the way to encourage and expedite innovative solutions.
Enjoy the video, and happy innovation!