In this interview, keynote speaker Jeff Patton breaks down how to turn user experience design inside out through Lean UX. He discusses presenting half-baked ideas within Lean UX, as well as whether communication between developers and users alters how the user interface is designed.
Josiah Renaudin: Today I'm joined by Jeff Patton, who will be delivering a keynote titled "Lean UX: Turn User Experience Design Inside Out" at our upcoming Better Software Conference, Agile Development Conference, & DevOps Conference West. Jeff, thank you very much for joining us.
Jeff Patton: Thanks, Josiah. I am very glad to be here.
Josiah Renaudin: Fantastic. First, could you tell us just a bit about your experience in the industry?
Jeff Patton: Oh, boy. I've been in software development since ... it's getting ... edging close to twenty-five years now; I lose track. I am an art school dropout, and when you're an art school dropout and you go into software development, well at least for me, I design better user interface than other developers that I work with, so that made me the UI guy. But I learned very quickly early on that designing things that looked good wasn't the same thing as designing things that are good. There's a lot more to user experience design than that.
Since 1990, I've served about ... in every possible role in software development. In my company, I've actually rose to the role of product manager and these days, I help other companies figure out how to build better software.
Josiah Renaudin: Do you think your experience in art gave you an advantage when you're developing software and developing the look of these different systems and apps?
Jeff Patton: Oddly, when I went to the university, I was taking a degree in communications art. Part of that degree was fine art. A part of my study was fine art and painting, but part of it was advertising design, and actually that gave me a stronger background in what mattered.
Josiah Renaudin: (laughs).
Jeff Patton: Turning in a first advertising design assignment—and I thought it looked really good—and I put it up on the wall as a critique, and my professor and other folks gave me a ... they threw a WTF exception.
Josiah Renaudin: (laughs).
Jeff Patton: Because advertising has a job to do, it has to communicate something; it has a purpose beyond just looking good. We had to go back to, who is thing for? What message am I trying to communicate? What am I expecting the viewer of this message to do in response? That's the kind of art that made the biggest difference for me, it's recalling some of that advertising design stuff that matters these days.
Josiah Renaudin: You'd mentioned how much time you spent doing this particular field, so you've seen it evolve over time; why did creating smart user design take so much time and expertise in the past?
Jeff Patton: Like a lot of processes that's been turned upside down with agile development ... we're in a conference that is advertising and DevOps, and we're rethinking a lot of what the standard way of doing things is.
The traditional user experience design would start with some sort of ... understanding some sort of business purpose or business requirements would go into some amount of research and as rigorous as we could be, given time limits. Then focuses on some subset of user challenges we were going to solve, then create some design, and then validate that design. It was a fairly long linear process. It just took a long time and what was annoying is that you'd get all the way to the end and you would still not be right and you'd go into a lot of iteration then, and by then, after taking so much time ... it wasn't a lot of time to go back and fix issues that you found in the design as a consequence.
Josiah Renaudin: Before we get deeper in the conversation, can you define Lean UX and explain why this particular approach is different from what has been used before?