INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG 82 INTERACTIONS SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER2018
FORUM THE BUSINESS OF UX
your audience, and leveraging agile
use cases—should help your UX
communication be more effective
across the organizational silos, without
adding a great deal of overhead.
Beyond the specific strategies, the
best recipe for success is to remain
flexible. Embrace the collaborative,
experimental spirit that embodies
the practice of lean UX: The best
approaches are the ones that work in
At first glance, this communication
overhead looks wasteful, especially
if one is trying to embrace lean
UX principles. However, at a large
organization, effective design
communication thrusts UX into a
much more strategic role—embrace it.
It’s a tremendous opportunity for the
UX team to influence the company to
take a more human, considerate, and
ultimately more powerful approach
to product development, one that is
more likely to lead to success for the
company in the long term through
converting customers into lifelong fans.
1. Gothelf, J. and Seiden, J. Lean UX: Applying
Lean Principles to Improve User Experience.
O'Reilly Media, 2013.
2. Klein, L. Lean UX for Lean Startups: Faster,
Smarter User Experience Research and
Design. O'Reilly Media, 2013.
3. Nudelman, G. The $1 Prototype: Lean
Mobile UX Design and Rapid Innovation for
Material Design, iOS, and RWD. Design
Caffeine Press, 2014.
4. Knapp, J., Zeratsky, J., and Kowitz, B.
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test
New Ideas in Just Five Days. Simon &
5. Ries, E. The Lean Startup: How Today's
Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation
to Create Radically Successful Businesses.
6. Korzybski, A. Chapter IV: On Structure
(PDF). In Schuchardt Read, C. Science and
Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian
Systems and General Semantics (CD-ROM
ed.). 1996 (1st ed. 1933), 58.
Greg Nudelman (http://DesignCaffeine.
com) is a global UX design executive with 22
years of experience. He has written four books
on UX design and is working on two more.
Currently, he is serving as head of UX research
at Baker Hughes GE Digital. He also loves
doing UX design keynotes, with almost 100
presentations in 12 countries.
to fund the latter UX project with
the bells and whistles. Why? The
executives were unfamiliar with the
design space, pressed for time, and
forced to make the decision quickly, so
they went for the idea they could more
Now, under the traditional lean UX
practice, such an animated proposal
would be considered wasteful. However,
understanding the goals of your
audience could also mean understanding
how to communicate your design
regardless of where you are in the design
process. So at least in this case, and for
this audience, the expense of making
the elaborately animated prototype was
justified because it helped the executives
understand the idea.
Communication is a large part of
the lean UX design practice. The key
to success is staying flexible: Instead
of sticking to what’s “right,” focus
on communicating effectively by
understanding and internalizing the
needs and goals of your audience.
LEVERAGE AGILE USE CASES
A thoughtfully worded agile use case
can be used to communicate persona,
goal, functionality, and benefit (who,
what, how, and why) for a variety of
applications. This makes agile use cases
an excellent tool for alignment between
various distributed, often siloed teams
in a large organization.
Typically, agile use cases are worded
in a standard format, such as “As a
Persona X I can do Y so that I can get
some benefit Z.” Appropriately edited,
the same use case can be used as a
development epic, design use case,
and product strategy item, and even
employed as a prompt for user testing.
Such alignment is invaluable for clear
communication across departments!
To ensure smoother communication,
start the project by aligning on a few
critical use cases. For example, “As
a first-time customer, I can complete
my purchase without registering, so
that I can check out quickly and avoid
the hassle of having to create and
remember another password.”
Once product management
confirms these use cases, the UX team
can design the experience and validate
them through early field research and
As your UX team continues to
design and prototype, the same agile
use cases can be reworded as user
tasks for RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing
and Evaluation). For example: “Now
that you found what you want to buy,
complete your purchase. Is there a
way to do so without having to register
for the site? PROBE: For what reason
might you want (or not want) to do
While the UX team is refining the
design, the development team can
work in parallel, utilizing these same
use cases as agile epics to plan the
overall development progress. All
the while, the prototype you used for
testing with your customers efficiently
communicates the key specifications
for the agile epics. At any time, anyone
on the distributed team can visit the
click-through UX design prototype and
see the use case in action. Effective lean
UX communication using the agile use
cases helps support continuous team-
wide alignment while minimizing
Many UX people mistakenly assume
that “running lean” (especially
when mixed with agile development
processes) means providing no design
documentation. Unfortunately, this
often leads to miscommunication in
large, complex teams distributed over
multiple countries and time zones.
Even something as simple as
attending agile scrum standup meetings
can be tricky, especially when these
meetings happen at 2 a.m. your time!
Meantime, developers on a critical
deadline will not wait for next week’s
meeting to ask you if they are “doing it
right”—they will make an assumption
and move to execute. Once something
is coded, it is reused multiple times,
multiplying the confusion. So, if
you can’t be there in person daily, to
communicate effectively, you have to
invest a bit more time and effort into UX
The four strategies we discussed
in this article—building a design
framework, running multiple
prototypes in parallel, using
communication methods that fit
DOI: 10.1145/3236683 COP YRIGH T HELD BY AUTHOR. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00