Lean UX Research: Quick, but Not Dirty

In  my previous posts, I discussed why you should conduct lean UX research to induce great user experience through Agile development and how to do this. Some of you might be concerned with a lack of quality insight in lean UX research. I’ll address the concern in this post.

“Lean” Doesn’t Mean Poor Quality

Lean UX research quality

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How to Conduct Lean UX Research to Support Agile Development?

In my last post, I discussed why you should conduct lean UX research in order to induce great user experience through Agile development process.

Here, I’ll explain how to conduct lean UX research in dealing with the tremendous timeline and planning pressure posed by the Agile process — that requires you to be creative and leverage alternative user research methods. Let me go through them one by one.

Conduct UX research to complement A/B tests

Given that a big part of the Agile process is test-and-learn – test here typically refers to A/B testing – we can conduct UX research to complement A/B testing. A typical way to do this is to conduct a usability study on the different variations currently being A/B tested. Given that the product is already live with the different variations, it’s very easy for us to test the product, as there’s no need to do prototyping or wireframing in preparing for the usability study.

Conducted in conjunction with A/B testing, the usability study can tell us “why” one variation is better than the other, and if a better solution outside of the variations tested exist.

Case study:

At one point I was asked to conduct a usability study to evaluate the variations of a live-site A/B test in order to encourage users’ shopping behavior. Whereas the A/B test gave us some early indication of which design would fare better, I used the usability study to provide in-depth UI and content recommendations, pointing out solutions that exist outside of the four variations A/B tested. End result: combining insight from the UX research with data from the A/B test, I helped the client create an experience in which users were much more likely to go through the shopping flow, and we saw a truly dramatic lift in revenue as a result.

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Is UX Research Dead in the Agile Development World?

Agile software development process gained tremendous popularity recently, adopted by many companies to deliver high-quality products through iterative launch and testing.

In contrast to the traditional Water Fall model, in an Agile environment the design and development teams collaborate very closely and there is little step-by-step procedure or upfront planning – decisions are made and solutions are implemented on the fly, in a highly iterative and flexible manner.

However the lack of planning and lead time in the process apparently poses a major challenge to user experience research. Remember, UX research is supposed to bring a strategic perspective into software development, helping the product team understand the big picture and focus on the right things to work on based on user insights. But the making-decisions-on-the-fly mindset underlying the Agile process makes conducting UX research seemingly hard to do and unnecessary.

So here come the questions:

Is UX research even needed any more in an Agile environment?

If so, then how do we conduct UX research in this context?

The answer: Lean UX research – conducting research in a quick-but-not-dirty way.

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Test-and-Learn is Not Enough – Garbage in, Garbage out

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Improve Your User Experience Through Customer Journey Analysis

In order to see business opportunities through the lens of customer experience, it’s critical for business leaders to see customer experience through a cross-channel, end-to-end perspective. By looking at customer experience holistically through the so-called Customer Experience Ecosystem (CXE) analysis, we can quickly identify gaps and find solutions to improve customer experience.

Benefits of CXE analysis:

  • Making the experience sticky
  • Improving conversion/reducing drop-off
  • Increasing repeat visits
  • Enhancing long-term customer loyalty Continue reading

Develop New Products that Customers Want – A Step-by-Step Guide

For entrepreneurs and product managers, developing new products and uncovering new markets pose great challenges, as they are in an uncharted territory with little guidance. That’s why it is particularly important to gather customer feedback to explore, validate, and improve the product vision and direction at a very early stage. However, I’ve seen many times entrepreneurs and product managers dived into UI design and coding without first evaluating the concept, the single most important step of customer validation.

Continue to read the full step-by-step guide

By Frank Guo


Finding Business Priorities: What Matters to Your Users? – Part III

In my previous posts, I discussed the four elements of user experience — how they are constructed, how they are different from one another, etc. I’d like to call this framework VADU model, because it stands for Value, Adoptability, Desirability, and Usability. Here, I’m discussing the practical application of the model in relation to business planning. The model can help companies with:

  • Identify UX priorities based on business model
  • Evaluating and improving UX in alignment with business
  • Develop KPIs based on UX priorities

Read on: More Than Usability: The Four Elements of User Experience, Part III

By Frank Guo



Finding Business Priorities: What Matters to Your Users? – Part II

Here is Part II of my three-part series published on UX Matters, which describes the different aspects of user experience and how we can develop better products based on the framework: More Than Usability: The Four Elements of User Experience, Part II

By Frank Guo


Finding Business Priorities: What Matters to Your Users? – Part I

Whereas user experience and usability have been used almost interchangeably in many occasions, through my conversations with many product-design professionals, I’ve found that “usability” is being increasingly used in a narrow context, in which it specifically refers to the ease of task completion and is closely associated with a “testing” connotation. On the other hand, “user experience” is used by practitioners in much broader contexts, referring to things ranging from ease of use to user engagement to visual appeal, and therefore I believe is a better term in capturing all the psychological and behavioral elements of user interactions with products. Please check out my article on UX Matters, More Than Usability: The Four Elements of User Experience, Part I

By Frank Guo


Demystifying UX Design — Part 3: Simplicity Is Not Simple

So far in the Demystifying UX Design series, I’ve covered several UX design issues that many people erroneously believe to be problematic: long pages and large number of clicks in Part 1; high information density in Part 2. Now, in Part 3 of “Demystifying UX Design,” I’ll discuss another widely held belief among UX designers: that making a user interface look simple is always good practice.

Simplicity Is Not Simple

When it comes to UX design, there is little doubt that simplicity is good. Simplistic design is one of Jakob Nielsen’s widely accepted Web-design heuristics. And the success of Apple user interfaces—which are remarkably simplistic, elegant, and easy to use—has further strengthened the belief that simplicity should always be our goal. Of course, there is much truth in this belief—especially for smartphone user interfaces, where limited screen real estate requires that a user interface be clean.

“Think about what we want to achieve through simplicity in the first place: reducing users’ mental effort, supporting users’ tasks, creating user engagement, and enhancing discoverability.”

However, I’ve found that many UX designers adhere to this idearegardless of context, so take a minimalistic approach even when additional screen elements and content would result in a better user experience.

Simplicity is not that simple.

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Read the entire Demystifying UX Design series

By Frank Guo



Demystifying UX Design — Part 2: High Information Density Is Not Always Bad

In Part 1 of my series Demystifying UX Design, I wrote about two design issues that people commonly and falsely believe to be problematic: long pages and the number of clicks it takes for users to get to information. In Part 2, I’ll discuss another common false belief relating to high information density and provide design recommendations for addressing this issue.

High Information Density Is Not Always Bad

Through my interactions with UX designers and Web product managers, I’ve found that many hold a firm belief that high information density is something to avoid at all costs. Granted, cramming too much information into a limited space in a disorganized manner makes it difficult for users to scan, read, and absorb the information. Besides, it seems to go against the popular usability heuristic of aesthetic and minimalist design.

“If a page is well designed, high information density does notcompromise either the reading experience or usability.”

However, if a page is well designed, high information density does notcompromise either the reading experience or usability. If anything, a very compact screen design could enhance reading. Not only that, it might help in achieving greater user engagement.

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Read the entire Demystifying UX Design series

By Frank Guo


Demystifying UX Design — Part 1: Don’t Worry About Long Pages and Many Clicks

There are many common beliefs about UX design that are, unfortunately, based on casual and inaccurate observation. However, through systematically planned and conducted user research, we can see that some of these could not be further from the truth. In this series, I’d like to single out a few such design beliefs that meet two conditions:

  1. Many product development professionals believe them.
  2. Little user data supports them.

Such ideas may not be completely wrong—just oversimplified. But, if UX designers applied them indiscriminately, adherence to them would undermine user engagement and task completion. While many experienced UX designers have already realized the problems that result from adhering to these ideas, many others still firmly believe in them. In debunking these UX design myths, I’ll show that they’re just half truths that don’t fully account for the complexity of user experience and that there are better alternatives for achieving your design objectives.

There’s No Need to Worry About Long Pages

“Many designers are overly concerned about page length, thinking that long pages impair information discovery.”

Many designers are overly concerned about page length, thinking that long pages impair information discovery. Much too often, I’ve heard, “The page is too long, users won’t scroll down.” This is not necessarily the case. Based on hundreds of user interviews that I’ve conducted, user expectations and contextual cues guide users’ behavior. You need not worry about long pages, as long as users know they should scroll down.

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Read the entire Demystifying UX Design series

By Frank Guo


Why Is NPS a Poor Measure of Web and Mobile Customer Experience?

If you have to name one measure of customer experience that has ubiquitous acceptance among senior executives, it’s NPS, short for Net Promoter Score, a well-studied and indeed very simple way to measure customer loyalty to a brand. Lots of research has shown a strong correlation of NPS and revenue growth.

What’s the Problem, Then?

On the other hand, having conducted customer experience surveys for many years, I’ve found NPS to be a poor and misleading measure of online, mobile, and social media experience. Furthermore, whereas NPS is a great tool to help the company focus on customer loyalty through an easy-to-understand concept, it offers very little help when it comes to developing customer experience solutions. Continue reading

Architecting Customer Experience Ecosystem

I’ve talked about the business importance of developing a robust customer experience ecosystem or CXE in previous blog posts. Here, I’ll walk through a case study to illustrate how to design a CXE. In this example, my first step was to diagram the current customer experience based on a thorough understanding of the UI workflow and user needs and behavior. Below is a hypothetical CXE created in such way:

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Integrating Customer Experience Ecosystem with Business Model: The Case of Telsano Health

As discussed in my previous posts, developing a robust Customer Experience Ecosystem or CXE is key to driving revenues through customer engagement and loyalty. It is of paramount importance for a business to integrate CXE as part of its core business model. This is especially true for start-ups in search of a profitable monetization model and mature companies that seek additional revenue growths (see my post about BlockBuster). Let me talk about the business model of Telsano Health, a healthcare start-up that I’m providing strategy consulting to, as a case study. Continue reading

Blockbuster’s UX Failure: Unable to Leverage Customer Experience Ecosystem

Many of us still remember the Netflix’s client experience fiasco — the company first abruptly raised the fees of its DVD services by more than 60% and then tried to split the streaming and DVD services into two separate websites to further inconvenience subscribers. As a result, the stock price plummeted from around  $300 to less than $80 within just a few months.

Blockbuster, the chief rival of Netflix, at the moment had a good shot at taking advantage of the missteps of Netflix, who broke down its own customer experience ecosystem or CEE by undermining the DVD rental experience. But Blockbuster’s failure of integrating its online and offline client experience made it forfeit this great opportunity. Continue reading