Josh Seiden and I taught a sold-out session of the Lean User Experience Intensive (LUXi) July 9-10, 2011 at Pivotal Labs NYC. Here’s some information for those of you who didn’t get a chance to join us. We hope to see you at a future event!
You know that great design is critical to the success of your business. It differentiates your product, defines the experience, and creates passionate users and loyal customers. Yet, many teams today struggle with design. Designers are hard to hire, working with an agency is expensive and doesn’t transfer knowledge to the team. If you do have designers and developers working together, It’s challenging to bring UX methods into an agile process without creating a bottleneck and tensions in the team.
Lean UX is a way to solve these problems. It’s a deeply practical and collaborative way of working. Lean UX uses rapid iterative cycles to create and improve products, simplify decision-making, and ensure you are building things that people want.
The Intensive is a two-day workshop for startups who want to improve the user experience of their product or individuals who want to work more effectively by using lean user experience methods. Over the weekend, you’ll be introduced to key principles and methods, and you’ll learn by doing. You’ll work collaboratively with your team-mates and experienced coaches to gain skills you can put to work immediately after the workshop.
I’ve been using LiveScribe products since April ’09 and consider myself a heavy user (filled seven journals, ~100 interviews and conversations recorded). I’m still using the first generation pen, the Pulse 2GB which still works perfectly fine for me. The new one is the Echo, which is available in 4GB (~$150.00 USD) and 8GB (~$200.00 USD)
Buy one and try it out. It’s not a lot of money for how useful you’ll find it.
How does it work?
The Pulse is a souped-up voice-recording pen. It has a video camera at the business end which works with a special microdot paper to capture stroke order and tie it to what is being said at that time. There is additional info and video on their site if you want more details.
There’s a built in speaker, or you can use headphones for playback.
There’s an associated desktop sw package to backup and access the files.
Works with Mac or PC (I’ve tried both)
You can play back the recordings by tapping on the words in the notebook, or view an image of the page with strokes and sound using the LiveScribe desktop application
What’s it good for?
It’s helpful to be able to go back later and hear what people really said. Even though I’ve done hundreds of hours of interviews, sometimes I still get caught up in thinking about the next question and don’t focus on LISTENING. Now I’m able to record the interview while I take notes and have the option to listen to the whole thing later. Listening after the interview can result in an big increase in comprehension when you’re interviewing multiple people at once, or when the discussion is about something you’re not familiar with.
Not as intimidating as a recorder. I’ve never had anyone balk when I ask if I can “use my pen to record some of our conversation so I can concentrate on what they say.”
Great for capturing what people say in their own words. You can hand the pen and book to the person you’re talking to and have them draw you a diagram while talking.
With the attached mic/headphones, it does a pretty good job at capturing directional sound (good for group meetings)
You can share sound files, .pdfs and hybrid sound/stroke files with other people.
You have to buy the special notebooks and nibs. They are no more expensive than Moleskine supplies, but you have to remember to keep them in stock (I’ve not used the print your own paper option).
I’m not thrilled with the archiving options. I’m up to journal 7 and it’s hard to access earlier materials.
You have to remember to keep it charged. I’ve been stranded once or twice when I forget to turn it off between sessions.
What do you think?
If you also use LiveScribe products, please leave a comment. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences so I can learn more about what other people are doing.
I had a great time at Lean Startup Machine last weekend and learned a lot. I’d like to give a big shout-out to my collaborators, Gordon Agress, Joshua Haas, Miraya Yao, Ray Schmitz and Sebastian Park who were all enthusiastic, brilliant and cool under pressure. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort that the organizers and mentors contributed to making the event so great. It was amazing to spend the weekend with so many thought leaders in the Lean Startup space.
Rather than one long blog post about the whole event, I’ll start by writing about something our group found really helpful and several people asked me about, our sketchboard (that big brown piece of paper with all the stuff stuck on it).
Lean Startup Machine weekend is intense and not for the faint of heart. In just 48 hours, you form a team, decide on an idea to pursue, and create a product using Lean Startup principles and activities. We needed to engage in customer discovery activities in an asynchronous, and yet coordinated way. How would we keep track of what we were doing and understand patterns as they emerged, without a lot of time for synthesis or reflection? Based on some good experiences I’ve had using sketchboards as part of the LUXr program, I decided to build a sketchboard to help us track our evolving understanding of the problem, the users and their needs.
What was on our sketchboard?
Our sketchboard evolved over the weekend. We added new information and put revised information on top of older versions, but the structure I established at the beginning held up pretty well. I tried to set it up so it supported telling a story about the problem we were solving. The project name and objectives at the top, problem, ecology and competitive information on the left, user research, segmentation and personas on the right.
Note: you can click on the image to see a larger version of the sketchboard
A – Our project name “DomainMatcher”
B – Our hypothesis, Customer-Problem-Solution statement
C – Competitors in the space
D – Sketch of the ecosystem, with subject matter experts (SMEs) outside buyers and sellers
E/F – This section started out as just two groups domain “sellers” (E) and domain “buyers” (F) but quickly evolved to visually represent our segmentation theory. Sellers were arranged by low # domains to high # domains held and buyers were arranged into buckets (founders, advertisers, blogger/vanity and flippers). The blue tape indicates we engaged with that person. The provisional personas (Sam the seller and Brenda the buyer) were added once we determined our early adopter targets and drew on elements we heard in our conversations with buyers and sellers.
G – Paper prototype of our buyer Minimum Viable Product v.1
H – A reminder of our goals for the weekend, “Question assumptions” “Iterate” and “Get out of the building.”
How it helped us
I expected that this would help our team keep track of the work to be done and help us create a shared understanding of emerging patterns. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly people jumped in, contributed their own elements to the board and used it as a focal point for conversation. I believe a healthy sketchboard is owned by the entire team, and isn’t the work of a single person.
An unexpected side-benefit was how it made it easier for us to engage with other people. Several mentors and LSM participants came by, looked at the board and said “OK, I get it, here’s something I can do to help.” It was great to have a visual artifact we could use to quickly orient other people to our project and where we stood, pretty much in real time.
Lean Startup Machine is a weekend long boot-camp where entrepreneurs learn Lean Startup principles through real-world problem solving and coaching from mentors that get it. In 48 hrs, you’ll pitch an idea, form a team and attempt to build something customers actually want. The prize? Cash, mentorship and glory. This is a single weekend that will change how you think about building startups forever.