Lean UX Research Checklists

January 22, 2023

Each UX project is different, with variations in time and budget constraints, user needs and business requirements, and often, goals and requirements that change over time. When you’re practicing Lean UX, your goal should be to capture research data as often as possible to help you make quick, actionable decisions.

At a bare minimum, companies who have adopted Lean UX should be analyzing as much user data as possible to understand what users who share the characteristics of certain user personas are doing with their product or service. Ideally, you should also endeavor to understand why users are behaving in certain ways.

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Lean UX is the ideal partner to agile development—both of which engage in experimentation; have highly iterative, incremental work cycles; and enable teams to approach the work of software design and development in new ways.

Each Lean UX cycle comprises the following four phases:

  1. Discover
  2. Explore
  3. Test
  4. Listen

In this article, I’ll provide a brief explanation of each of these phases, as well as a Lean UX research checklist of actionable items for each phase. I’ll focus primarily on Lean UX testing, which generally occurs during all four phases of the Lean UX design process. Sometimes the phases of Lean UX testing occur in the order in which I’ll present them in this article, but most of the time they do not. The goal of Lean UX is to produce the best possible product for our customers by constantly making iterative and incremental changes that are informed by UX research.

Discover Phase

Before your team sets any UX design strategy or draws up any design concepts, you first need to understand whether a new product-design project even makes sense, or it might instead be worthwhile to get an existing project back on track. In either case, when you’re taking a Lean UX approach, the goal is to conduct research and gather insights on what the people who make up your target audience actually need. However, this does not involve doing extensive surveying or studies that would be very time consuming.

Actionable Items

Actionable items for the Discover phase of a Lean UX project include the following:

  1. Interview the business stakeholders to understand the organization’s business needs and constraints.
  2. Interview the organization’s internal teams that have frequent contact with customers—such as the Support team—to gather qualitative data about the problems that users encounter or the ideas they have about the product or service.
  3. Talk with industry experts who focus on the product’s domain.
  4. Validate your team’s assumptions about the product or discard those that prove invalid.
  5. Determine actionable UX metrics that you can use to evaluate the success of the product.
  6. Select the types of studies you want to conduct—including but not limited to field studies, diary studies, user-requirements gathering, or competitive analysis—then execute one or more studies.

Explore Phase

During the Explore phase, you’ll explore how users are interacting with the product or service. This is also a great time to do some basic troubleshooting and address user needs.

Actionable Items

Actionable items for the Explore phase of a Lean UX project include the following:

  1. Design the product or service for universal access and consider its social implications.
  2. Perform design reviews, during which your team assesses the quality of the design solution.
  3. Analyze all the user tasks for each of the user personas that your audience comprises.
  4. Explore all possible user tasks through storyboards or paper prototypes.
  5. Get early feedback on the design solution from both designers and industry experts.
  6. Select and execute one or more types of UX research—including but not limited to journey mapping, pluralistic walkthroughs, card sorting, or writing user stories—then execute one or more of these studies.

Test Phase

The purpose of testing is to validate your team’s assumptions and ensure that the team has made the correct design and development decisions along the way.

Actionable Items

Actionable items for the Test phase of a Lean UX project include the following:

  1. Talk with users to find out what they do and don’t like about the current product or service.
  2. Give users the ability to self-report any issues they have with the product, and use that data to guide design changes.
  3. Audit the company’s social-media accounts to learn about customers’ complaints and praise for the product or service.
  4. If users require training to use the product, audit a training session and note any questions or difficulties that users have during the training process.
  5. Perform benchmark testing to determine the current task-completion times, for the purpose of comparing them after making any changes or upgrades.
  6. Conduct frequent testing cycles, consisting of, but not limited to qualitative testing, focus groups, accessibility evaluations, and one-on-one interviews.

Listen Phase

Listening should be a component of all Lean UX cycles. Listen to users both before and after you make design changes and whenever you notice data that indicates painpoints and problems for users. Gather the feedback that users are providing on social media.

Actionable Items

Actionable items for the Listen phase of a Lean UX project include the following:

  1. Monitor quantitative metrics and analytics to discover trends and potential issues.
  2. Collect users’ frequently-asked questions and determine whether you can provide actionable solutions for any of them.
  3. Make a member of your team publicly available to users so they can talk with your team one on one about their issues.
  4. Offer public talks about and demonstrations of the product.
  5. Update and reorganize the product’s training sessions as necessary.
  6. Conduct one or more of the following listening activities, including but not limited to user surveys, search-log analysis, bug reviews, and analytics reviews.

In Conclusion

Lean UX requires never-ending cycles of research and design activities. Upon re-entering a cycle, you should always consider changing up the methods and activities that you’ve used before in an endeavor to get fresh perspectives and, potentially, discover issues that have not previously presented themselves. 

Senior Product Designer at MYER

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Anton StoutAnton has been an experience design and innovation lead, co-founder, product owner, and MBA lecturer for 3.5 years. As an entrepreneur, he has also worked in international marketing, corporate strategy, strategic management, and new-venture creation in Poland and Germany. When not on assignment, he spends his time supporting the development of Clue Group, which provides UXDCards® for UX designers, SXDCards® for Service Designers, and Methodloop. The company’s products and services have graced the hallways of Google, Apple, eBay, IBM, Amazon, and Lloyds Bank to name just a few industry leaders. Anton also frequently writes on topics relating to User Experience.  Read More

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