Image by Flickr user betsyweber

Lean Startup is User Design for Your Business Idea

I had a sudden epiphany yesterday that I’d like to share! Lately, I’ve been reading up about the Lean Startup movement. Lean Startup, pioneered by Eric Ries, is a business model that involves prototyping and testing one’s hypotheses early on, to avoid the high cost of failure.

The premise is simple, you test your intuitions about your idea, your customers and your business plan, before you even start work on implementing the solution. This way you can find the flaws, or even that the original idea is a no-go, early on rather than after you’ve spent your life savings developing it.

Parallels with HCI

So last night, I was watching a bunch of Lean Startup videos online from Ignite, and right after watching these videos, I switched tracks and started watching some lectures on HCI. Scott Klemmer, HCI star and soon-to-be UCSD professor has started a free online course on Coursera. Immediately, I realized the parallels between the two methodologies. HCI and UX recommend prototyping to test ideas, tight design iterations to learn from and change your interface, and developing rich customer personas.

It occurred to me then, that Lean Startup is essentially applying HCI and UX concepts to startups. The product you are designing is your business, including all its components – the solution, who you think your customer is, how you plan to target them , and how you intend to make money. You test all the assumptions you make about who your customer is, what they want and whether your solution provides it.

Just as the developer is not a good judge of an intuitive interface, the entrepreneur is often not the best judge of whether customers will flock to their solution over others. Basically, your customer is your user and the business model you present them with is their interface to your solution.

Other Thoughts

Today, I wake up and find this article from Smashing Magazine posted by my friend, Matt Hong. Clearly, I’m not the only one to see the parallels. The author, Tomer Sharon, goes one step further to say that Lean Startup is just great packaging for UX principles. Having just been introduced to the Lean Startup movement, I can’t verify that, but I can definitely see the similarities. It’s also what draws me to the Lean Startup methodology.

Do you see similarities between the ideas? If you haven’t heard much about one or both, head over and read the article at Smashing magazine.
What are some other HCI concepts that haven’t been applied to the design of a business?

Thumbnail and front page images courtesy of Flickr users betseyweber and krawcowicz respectively.

1 thought on “Lean Startup is User Design for Your Business Idea”

  1. Thanks for your insightful comment, Jonathan. I think you’re right about the statement and testing of hypothesis. I think few budding companies go so far as to have a real design process when creating their business strategy.

    However, I wonder about how one can test hypotheses in a very new space where the prototype cannot be easily tested. I’m a firmware engineer and it’s not always possible to test customer response to a new hardware product (like say the iPad) before said hardware product actually exists. Thoughts?

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