Lean User Research: Perfectly Execute the Right Plan

Lean User Research: Perfectly Execute the Right Plan

I recently watched a keynote by Tomer Sharon, UX Researcher on Google Search at the Google I/O 2014 conference entitled 'Perfectly Executing the Wrong Plan'. This talk was so good I have decided to break out the topic and explore it as a framework in this post.

Tomer is at the forefront of what is being called 'Lean User Research', which applies agile methodologies to the existing techniques of User Experience (UX). With connectedness leading to greater and greater complexity, and the need to get products to market rapidly so we can generate insights, it makes sense that we need to start to re-evaluate some of the more traditional UX processes that can often eat up time and resources.

The keynote itself was centred around app development, but this can definitely be applied to any product. It also is more focused on startups, but definitely has applications in all organisations. I'll build the framework around this broader product categorisation.

Perfectly Executing the Wrong Plan

Why do a huge number of products fail in the market? One of the primary reasons can be the fact that the product being built isn't actually solving a problem for the customers, which means that they will ultimately not care about what is on offer.

This leads us to the most important concept - whoever was creating the product failed to fall in love with a problem, which means there was no opportunity.

The Product Design Sprint from Google Ventures

The Product Design Sprint from Google Ventures

If you have come from a digital agency background, or work within a digital marketing department responsible for online platforms, you will no doubt have come into contact with all manner of UX/design sprints and ideation processes to develop or improve your owned assets.

Jake Knapp, Design Partner at Google Ventures has outlined a technique used on a variety of their client problems that synthesises this down. It's called the Product Design Sprint. While this mainly applies to startups, it has a lot of relevance to any business that is interested in moving fast to market, and driving faster feedback loops.

This post will explore the Design Sprint process in more detail - I'm doing a lot of paraphrasing (my stab at the Feynman Technique), so check out the original article if interested.


Knapp writes that the Design Sprint process was developed out of a frustration of group brainstorming. He tended to find that while good ideas were thought up in this environment, they tended to not end up progressing; successful ideas ultimately come from individuals, not groups.

The HEART Framework

The HEART Framework

As the use of A/B testing and other analysis methods grows, the need for effective metrics becomes more and more important. After all, you don't want to get stuck measuring the wrong thing, or being flooded with too much information that could lead you to paralysis.

Traffic metrics like page views or unique users are a good baseline when applied to websites, however don't often help as much when evaluating specific interfaces.

The UX Researchers at Google (found via Kerry Rodden) have come up with a simple framework to put some more rigour around evaluating the quality of user experience changes, by measuring both the quality and effectiveness against overall goals.  

The framework is divided into two areas:   

  1. The quality of the user experience (the HEART framework)
  2. The goals of your product or project (the Goals-Signals-Metrics process)

Let's take a look.