Book by Laura Klein Review by James Jacques

If Laura Klein was employed by your organisation not only would you be validating the market place, gathering data and iterating like an army of OCD squirrels. You wouldn’t be short of funds either. Her passion for lean, agile, and UX consistently manifests itself throughout this book as “swears”. Despite her sometimes unsavoury expressions the book is very well written. Describing the value behind doing as little work as possible to achieve the real goal “invalidate early” before spending more time and money than your lean start up has.

Clearly very knowledgeable in her field she often makes reference to other design and analytical practices, pulling relevant information from each. Her “loosely related rants” strewn throughout the book highlight the potential down falls of, poor execution, planning, production and philosophy. With a vague fight club quote “you are not a unique snowflake” then goes on to describe how competitors products can be used to strengthen your own. Not by simply copying what worked but more importantly by not copying what didn’t.

If your unsure if this book is for you a quick look through the nine design “tools”, describing when you should be doing what you could be doing might help.

Tool’s listed are as follows

Tool 1: Truly understand the problems
Tool 2: Design the test first
Tool 3: Write some stories
Tool 4: talk about the possible solutions with the team
Tool 5: Make a decision
Tool 6: (In)Validate the approach
Tool 7: Sketch a few approaches
Tool 8: create interactive prototypes
Tool 9: Test and iterate

(page 98-117 UX for lean startups)

Clarification is achieved throughout the book in various ways, case studies, user stories and personal experiences. Working through the process of creating a product from verifying your market place to user feedback and the next iteration.

Verifying the market place: Simply put does your proposed product solve a large enough problem for your intended user group. Start small and specific, when she says specific she means it!

“There is a tendency among entrepreneurs to go for the broadest possible group of people who might be interested in purchasing a product. They will release a product aimed at “women” or “doctors” when what they should be doing is picking narrower markets like “urban moms who work full time outside the house and don’t have nannies” or “oncologists in large practices who don’t do their own billing.”…”

(page 33 UX for lean startups)

Targeting a specific user type at this level, narrows the volume of variable problems experienced, thereby allowing for a concise resolution with a small product. If you can’t find enough people to validate it as a viable market place, your either not trying hard enough or there simply aren’t enough to turn a profit (cue story about how Amazon only used to sell books).

If abbreviations are your thing don’t worry there’s something for you too.

CTA’s (calls to action), hoops you’d like your intended user (if any) to jump through. As an example buy button’s for a product that, in this case, doesn’t quite yet exist.

“Click here for your doggy spa weekend” *click* “I’m sorry our doggy spa weekend isn’t quite ready yet”

While CTA’s don’t correlate to revenue in any real way, it does generate quantitative data. Telling you how much potential interest there was in your terrible doggy spa idea. Another example of quantitative data is A/B testing. How many people preferred your buy button next to the product as opposed to those who preferred it placed at the bottom of the page.

MVP’s (Minimum Viable Products), the bare bones. Coded with mock data or mocked with no data it must function as closely to your intended solution as possible and be the least amount of work. The route chosen is dependent on how complex the problem is your trying to solve. The semantics around, what is minimum, what is viable, are tackled on both a subjective and objective level again with examples of each. However one thing is for sure when creating MVP’s, lo or hi-fi, in balsamiq (wire framing tool) or on paper you must include just enough information to communicate the solution to your user while not leaving it open to interpretation. Lorem ipsum and a loose cube does not a mock-up make. Why? If your intending to layout your key information what better time to discover it doesn’t fit than before you’ve invested time making it pretty.

Early on the importance of qualitative data is laid out and how often we like to see metrics that trend clearly rather then useful data. Using number of sign ups to explain the problem, I’m going to paraphrase but she does a much better job in the book. Number of sign ups will only ever show upwards trends, this also assumes that the original sign ups are even still interested. Therefore a much better metric to measure would be Number of Active Users, displaying the much more useful figure of signed up users who actually continued to interact with what you did.  Gather data that displays the way the users feel, think and act in relation to not just your MVP’s but the problem its self.

Communication with your  team and users is important at every stage of the process but is especially important once you’ve got something tangible to assess. The book doesn’t suggest following every piece of advice  from everyone with a check book. But does really drive home the necessity for good and regular channels of communication.

In summary the books main markets is people with an interest in lean and ux. However the range of knowledge within would be of use to a broader array of disciplines than the cover would have you believe. If you’ve made it this far and are still unsure you can always check out a free sample of the book from the publisher below.